Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424 —...

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Title:Orange Is the New Black
Author:Piper Kerman
Rating:
ISBN:0385523386
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:298 pages

Orange Is the New Black Reviews

  • Lisa Vegan
    May 02, 2010

    This book was remarkably enjoyable to read. The writing is light and breezy, and it’s very well written, though not beautifully written; it’s a very straightforward account.

    Even though the author was so much more privileged than a typical women inmate, I got a good feel for not only her experiences but those of the even more unfortunate inmates.

    I learned a lot about life on the inside. One main thing is if you’re a nice person and you treat others well and you’re open to relationships with other

    This book was remarkably enjoyable to read. The writing is light and breezy, and it’s very well written, though not beautifully written; it’s a very straightforward account.

    Even though the author was so much more privileged than a typical women inmate, I got a good feel for not only her experiences but those of the even more unfortunate inmates.

    I learned a lot about life on the inside. One main thing is if you’re a nice person and you treat others well and you’re open to relationships with others, you will find community anywhere. I was very touched so many times.

    The American prison system is so absurd. This author did not belong in prison. The situation is almost laughable. Give people such as her many hours of community service. Well, she got a book out of it. But for the many other women who also pose no real threat to society who are written about in this book, there are other, better options. The number of people is prison is ridiculous, as is the percentage of Americans who’ve been incarcerated.

    Humans are humans everywhere so it did not surprise me to see all the personality types, lifestyles, ways of coping, etc. match life outside to that of people in the prison, not to mention the various insane ways of doing or not doing things. Absurd rules and situations abounded.

    I’d forgotten that Martha Stewart did not get her wish to be in Danbury so I kept wondering if she’d show up.

    One thing I found most amazing/disgusting is how laundry detergent is dispensed to Danbury women’s camp inmates for free, and menstrual supplies are present in abundance, enough so that they’re multiuse, but everything else, including soap, toothpaste, and other such things have to be bought in the commissary, with either prison earnings (for many women) or money sent from the outside.

    Also, the amount it costs to keep each prisoner incarcerated is ridiculous. For most violent offenders and a few others, that’s where they need to be. For all others, there are many other better options, for treatment/rehabilitation and/or punishment.

    I would not survive, I don’t think. But I love seeing (in all the prison books I’ve read) how the new normal of being incarnated simply becomes people’s new lifestyles, and full lives are lived by the majority of prisoners. They might not be as satisfying and are certainly more restricted than most, but people adapt beautifully, for the most part.

    The author is atypical, though not unique, re her level of education, her high socioeconomic status, her tremousdous amount of support from her fiancée and family and friends, having a love of reading and books, and having many, many books sent to her, having a tremendous amount of support from the outside, and having a relatively short sentence. She acknowledges all this, and makes clear she’s luckier than most. If she hadn’t continually professed these facts, I’d have had an incredibly hard time reading this book. But I appreciated the author’s honesty about herself and I was touched when she came to see the harm she did to others when she committed her crime, and because she was giving and has empathy for others and made the best of her situation, she comes across to me as very likeable, even though in the outside world I don’t think she’s “my kind” of person.

    Some thoughts as I read: We must do away with these silly mandatory federal minimum sentences. It’s ridiculous to be incarcerated for a this kind of crime committed a decade earlier and when the person self-surrenders. What a waste, for everybody. There is a shockingly poor standard of living but not as bad as for some not in prison, and the women definitely tweaked the system. No psychiatric care and awful medical care, and the vast majority of the women get released so unprepared to succeed. Lousy food. At one point when I was an omnivore I might have survived. They did have (inedible) tvp for the vegetarians and a sort of salad bar. I think in minimum security women’s prisons more of the staff should be women, and the men should be better screened!! Absurd minimum wage, given that inmates have to buy their own basic items, especially for those without a diploma/GED, 14¢ an hour, and the commissary prices are extremely inflated.

    The account has funny parts galore, due to the ludicrousness of the situations of those connected to "the camp" in Danbury.

    The last chapter, titled It Can Always Get Worse, and other parts, especially parts at the end and beginning, really touched me.

    Very readable and interesting and hard to put down.

    Our system needs a big overhaul in my opinion.

    4 ½ stars

  • Larry Smith
    Aug 14, 2010

    [Spoiler alert as to the ending of the book! Read at your own risk.]

    I'm biased because Piper is my wife, and I'm in this book. But I still think it's am amazing journey story. I'm pretty sure if I didn't know Piper I would be spreading the word on ORANGE just as I've done other books. I read a pre-hype galley of

    , thought it was amazing, and sent to at least 5 friends. So there. Read Piper's book: you'll be really glad you did.

  • Lynn
    Jul 06, 2011

    What a shocker! A well-educated, upper class white woman goes to prison and builds strong bonds with her fellow inmates, who are mostly undereducated women of color from the wrong side of the tracks.

    I liked the book and I liked her. I did. But it irritates me that she seems to be marketing the book as this revealing story about how we're all just human after all. I didn't find her writing condescending of the other women. I found her to be non-judgmental and a truly good friend to everyone wort

    What a shocker! A well-educated, upper class white woman goes to prison and builds strong bonds with her fellow inmates, who are mostly undereducated women of color from the wrong side of the tracks.

    I liked the book and I liked her. I did. But it irritates me that she seems to be marketing the book as this revealing story about how we're all just human after all. I didn't find her writing condescending of the other women. I found her to be non-judgmental and a truly good friend to everyone worthy of her friendship. She suffers the indignities of prison with a straightforward kind of courage. She takes pride in the friendships she builds, in the work she does in prison and when opportunities arise for her because of her blonde hair and "tight ass" - opportunities that would endear her to the prison staff yet distance her from her fellow inmates - she politely turns them down. So what's my problem? Well, maybe this is unfair of me, but here goes: It still feels too self-congratulatory, too arrogant. And WAY too self-serving. While these friendships were meaningful to her in prison, I highly doubt she maintains them. She doesn't cop to the fact that the prison is a bubble, not the kind of bubble we think of when we talk about the lives of celebrities, but a bubble nonetheless. And the friendships she built, she built as a means to her own survival. She admits to reading the "How to Survive Prison" books, and I have no doubt that she hatched her plan to become "just one of the gang" as a result.

    And that's why there's no epilogue. She walks out of prison and she leaves those friendships behind. There's nothing more to tell about Pop, or Jae, or Natalie, because I suspect they are out of her life for good. Quite simply, she doesn't need them anymore. And what does she make of this experience in the final analysis? She writes a book that is by and large about how she conquered prison. How she navigated its tricky waters with aplomb. How she managed to always come out smelling like a rose. It bugs me.

    I would feel differently if now, instead of working in PR in some DC company shilling god-knows-what, she were working toward making some sort of positive difference. But I think for her it's just, Been there, Done that, Wrote the book. Back to my regularly scheduled life of privilege.

  • PhobicPrerogative
    Jun 25, 2012

    The details in this book were impressive, but it got tiring eventually. I suppose she had to stretch out everything that happened that year into those pages.

    There were also a lot of women mentioned, and my head was spinning, trying to keep track of them.

    Although well-written, the one thing I honestly didn't like about this memoir is that the author came off as a bit smug, like she was better than the other prisoners.

    There was a "Mary Sue" impression I got of her, the woman who got along with ev

    The details in this book were impressive, but it got tiring eventually. I suppose she had to stretch out everything that happened that year into those pages.

    There were also a lot of women mentioned, and my head was spinning, trying to keep track of them.

    Although well-written, the one thing I honestly didn't like about this memoir is that the author came off as a bit smug, like she was better than the other prisoners.

    There was a "Mary Sue" impression I got of her, the woman who got along with everybody, the woman everybody thought of as the All-American girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. Unintentionally, she came off as a Saviour to her fellow inmates.

    Some parts of the story were frustrating: her friends and family were amazing through it all. Really? There wasn't one person who was angry with her? There wasn't

    person in that network of friends who called her stupid for her stupid youthful decisions?

    It made that part of her life so unreal that I didn't care much about reading anything involving Larry or her family.

    I admit I skipped the last few chapters when she was about to be released because it was a repetition of the same thing.

    The ending was quite disappointing.

    Questions were left unanswered; did she keep in touch with the friends she made while in prison? Or those who she left behind (such as Pop) and those who were released before and after her? All those women she said were her dearest friends?

    It would have been nice for us to know what happened AFTER her release. For example, Pom-Pom had sent a distressing letter to one of the inmates about having a hard time adjusting post-release - did Piper reach out to her?

    More so, how did Piper adjust to being in the world after prison? One chapter would have sufficed including those bits that readers were curious about, but all we got was a

    blurb, and it wasn't enough.

  • Joice
    Oct 01, 2012

    Allow me to summarize: "So, I am a privileged, white girl who was lost and confused. I made some mistakes, including becoming involved with an international drug ring. Oopsie. However, by the grace of my own incredible will, I got out, met a nice boy, and became a productive citizen. Then boom! Somebody snitched, and the government baddies came and put me in prison. But I was stoic! My heavens, was I ever! I accepted my fate and the consequences for my actions. And I was also pretty special. Des

    Allow me to summarize: "So, I am a privileged, white girl who was lost and confused. I made some mistakes, including becoming involved with an international drug ring. Oopsie. However, by the grace of my own incredible will, I got out, met a nice boy, and became a productive citizen. Then boom! Somebody snitched, and the government baddies came and put me in prison. But I was stoic! My heavens, was I ever! I accepted my fate and the consequences for my actions. And I was also pretty special. Despite my whiteness, all the brown and black folks loved me (because Blondie--yours truly--had street smarts and was ever so helpful to those in need). And you guys, these people taught me so much about life, love, and how hard it is to be NOT white and privileged! Which was totally cool. These people were my friends and I was sad when I had to leave them."

    What a pile of sanctimonious balderdash.

  • Debbie
    Oct 24, 2012

    It's not often that I outright dislike a book, but I disliked this one. Intensely. With a passion. I feel a little bad about that, as a good friend recommended it for our book club, but I'm guessing I had a surly face when I showed up to discuss it that evening.

    In terms of the writing, my main gripe is that nothing happens. "How is that possible?" you ask. "This privileged, blonde, Smith graduate went to jail!" Yes. This is true. And I have no idea how it's possible that nothing happens, but thi

    It's not often that I outright dislike a book, but I disliked this one. Intensely. With a passion. I feel a little bad about that, as a good friend recommended it for our book club, but I'm guessing I had a surly face when I showed up to discuss it that evening.

    In terms of the writing, my main gripe is that nothing happens. "How is that possible?" you ask. "This privileged, blonde, Smith graduate went to jail!" Yes. This is true. And I have no idea how it's possible that nothing happens, but this also is true. It's like she got out of jail, realized she could sell a book about her experiences, and cobbled together some random stories to form a semblance of a book. There's no real flow or direction.

    Even worse than the writing, though, is the fact that there's no character development. Piper doesn't seem to learn from her experience or grow as a person. She basically tells us over and over again how much everyone likes her in jail. Oh, and she's pretty. So pretty! Everyone tells her so! She's such a shallow person, and while it can be great fun to read a book where the characters are completely unlikeable, I couldn't get past my distaste in this case.

  • V
    Sep 03, 2013

    After a very hearty recommendation from several people I trust, I started watching the Netflix original TV show Orange is The New Black. While it can be a little disjointed and awkward in parts, it has its charm. The characters are memorable and the story-lines are very compelling. While I haven't had time to marathon the series in its entirety, I thought to check out Piper Kerman's candid memoir of her life in prison, where she was incarcerated for a drug trafficking charge almost a decade afte

    After a very hearty recommendation from several people I trust, I started watching the Netflix original TV show Orange is The New Black. While it can be a little disjointed and awkward in parts, it has its charm. The characters are memorable and the story-lines are very compelling. While I haven't had time to marathon the series in its entirety, I thought to check out Piper Kerman's candid memoir of her life in prison, where she was incarcerated for a drug trafficking charge almost a decade after committing the crime.

    So, how does Kerman's biography stand up to the TV show? Well... There's certainly enough material to adapt, considering Kerman was a fish completely out of water when put into the prison scene, and tensions and drama are definitely going to crop up in a prison. A little like high school, there are popular people whom you need to earn the approval of, there are authority figures who are either completely out of touch with your day to day life, or otherwise completely corrupt; there are inmates who you might need to avoid, et cetera.

    What I'm most disappointed in with Orange is the New Black is how it handles what the prison system does to its female inmates, and how different it is to the experience of a male prisoner. You'd think a highly educated person such as Piper Kerman (coming from a very privileged background, and educated at a private university) would notice these things and refer to facts and figures and essays in her work, but no. Orange is the New Black is honestly one of the most nearsighted biographies I have read.

    Here's the thing – I know biographies are supposed to be somewhat nearsighted. They're accounts of something that happened to a singular person, whether they worked their guts out to become the Grand Chessmaster or a singer or a dancer or a professional chef.

    However, Orange is the New Black deals with a rather sensitive subject, that being the experience of a female in prison. There are tonnes of creative and intellectual ways to describe the isolation, the alienation, the sisterhood between inmates, the class structure between the incarcerated and the prison staff, and how a lot of women in prison cope with being unable to see their families or care for their children. (Which is briefly touched upon, but each time it's a rather throwaway reference. It reads like: “Look at these women who don't want their kids to visit them! Back to me. Back to me. Back to me. Oh, would you look at the kids meeting their mothers on Mothering Sunday. Sad isn't it. Back to me.”)

    The book makes one statistic clear to us, though – the US prison population skyrockets year upon year. The length of incarceration and recidivism affects people from all levels of society – if you ever take a crime module in Sociology, prepare to blow apart the New Right's belief that criminals are only ever low-class, uneducated thugs, and that rich people have the morals to not commit crimes. Piper may not exclusively rub elbows with corrupt bankers and corporate embezzlers in prison, but it is important to note that Piper really, really casts herself as sticking out like a sore thumb. Which, admittedly, she is – she's a university-educated upper-middle class girl whose bohemian post-college days led her to making bad decisions and whoops, having to pay the consequences for it later down the line. A lot of girls in the prison don't have a high school education, and the high school degree programme in the prison has been shut down due to the prison's only classroom becoming mouldy.

    You'd think Piper would come in and point out about the lack of opportunities for education and how prisons are subject to constant budget cuts despite the fact that some states in the US spend more on their incarcerated individuals than they do on school children. Nope! It's just swept away as an aside.

    Here's the thing – prison would open your eyes a lot more than the way Piper carries on. She just goes through her days like nothing is wrong. Piper's day is essentially: “I did this. I did that. Everyone was surprisingly nice to me. I noticed this. I did that. I missed my old life. I went to bed.” Towards the start of her incarceration, Piper starts getting books sent in from all her friends, and loving letters of encouragement. Followed by one brief observation about how there are some people who get no letters or gifts whatsoever. It would have been nice to elaborate on that in a more empathic way than: “Oh, what a shame. Her family and friends don't write to her. Back to me!”

    Don't expect the book to contain any of the scenes from the TV show – Red doesn't put a used tampon in a breakfast muffin, or get her staff to starve Piper. You still see Pennsatucky, Red and Big Boo and the other inmates you'll know from the TV show, just under different monikers.

    Piper in the TV show starts off like a scared little mouse, but manages to claw her way up the social ladder in prison by using her wits. Piper in the book just remains the same way she did when she arrived for her incarceration. You never, ever get the sense that she learned anything from her experience aside from learning that sanitary towels can be used in a variety of ways.

    She's also quite judgemental and horrible in the book. Big Boo is referred to as a 'bulldyke', which isn't really a word a cis woman like Piper ought to be using to describe a lesbian. You could have said she was a bullish, heavy-set woman, and mentioned her sexuality elsewhere (if it really needed to be brought up), rather than going straight for the slur.

    Some of the white girls are referred to as 'Eminemlettes'. Let's look at how they're introduced, shall we?

    (47%)

    Yeah, that's not actually a funny observation. And giving them that Eminem-based nickname, considering that Eminem has quite a few songs featuring heavy violence towards women? I have two rare birds of the Middle Finger genus I'd like to show the author.

    There's also somebody referred to as 'bipolar Colleen.' No, seriously, our introduction to her is to slap her with her mental illness. She's not a person at all, she's just a mental disorder!

    Speaking of mental illness...

    (61%)

    I think that extract speaks for itself, don't you?

    To add to the uncomfortable homophobia, judgemental attitude and mentalism, we get some subtle transphobia. Fans of the TV show will know Sophia, a transwoman in the prison who proves to be a very valuable friend to Piper and who quickly became one of my favourite characters for how well-written and charming she was.

    Let's see how book!Piper depicts Sophia (named Vanessa in the book).

    (62%)

    See that? She's only almost a woman through Piper's eyes. She's too tall and fake-looking to be a woman, and it doesn't matter that Vanessa identifies as a woman and has worked to make her gender identity line up with her outside appearance, she'll never quite be a woman, according to Piper's narration here. Excuse me while I go chuck something at the wall.

    (62%)

    Note the use of the 'shim' slur there. The description of Vanessa being a prissy, attention-seeking diva. Piper makes her sound like a theatrical drag queen as opposed to a woman born into the wrong sex. It's transphobia, and it's really gross to read. In fact, she refers to Vanessa later as being 'drag queen funny',

    If it was supposed to be funny, then, no. It's not.

    So, what about the rest of the book? Honestly, it's really not that much of a riveting read. This is honestly a case where the producers of the TV show sewed a silk purse out of a sow's ear, because the book does nothing with the premise we're given. Piper just makes observations, occasionally harks to some sociological data and societal differences she's noticed, but it's done in such an offhanded and dismissive way. I was actually craving for there to be references and studies listed in the back, like in Nancy Jo Sales' The Bling Ring. (Even though that book is arguably just as judgemental and dismissive as this is.)

    You're basically reading the biography of a rich white girl whose time in prison was basically spent making friends with everyone, having a great link to the outside world (seriously, she has a job in marketing at her friend's company just waiting for her when she's let out), getting fit in the prison's (admittedly meagre) exercise facilities, and enjoying her jobs in the construction and the electrical shop. It didn't really live up to my expectations, and it turned what was a really enjoyable TV series into dull drudge that did nothing with its premise nor treated the characters as individuals. They're just cardboard cut-outs that occasionally come into Piper's line of sight every now and again. Rather than developing them, Kerman just goes straight for the one word label (which is preferably a slur) she can refer to them as so that the audience know just what kind of 'oddballs' they are, because prison is just full of deviants, right?

    There's no warmth whatsoever in this novel. Occasionally Piper makes an amusing observation about prison life, but the rest of the biography is delivered in such a myopic and unsympathetic fashion that I really struggled to understand just how such a fun TV series could come from such a boring biography that had no right to be anywhere near as dull as it was.

    2/5.

    (This review is also available on my blog:

    )

  • Barb
    Sep 06, 2013

    I really wanted to give this a better review, because I love it on Netflix.

    Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn't seen the show first.

    Basically, I felt like this story lacked depth, was repetitive and quite often felt phoney. I was annoyed by the constant reminders that Piper's blue eyes and blonde hair made her life pretty easy, and that her inclusion with the "popular" crowd (aka: Pop's friends) got her lots of perks. Characters were underdeveloped and there was no real flow. Oh, and d

    I really wanted to give this a better review, because I love it on Netflix.

    Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn't seen the show first.

    Basically, I felt like this story lacked depth, was repetitive and quite often felt phoney. I was annoyed by the constant reminders that Piper's blue eyes and blonde hair made her life pretty easy, and that her inclusion with the "popular" crowd (aka: Pop's friends) got her lots of perks. Characters were underdeveloped and there was no real flow. Oh, and don't get me started on unrealistic dialogue.

    I feel like this review is more of an endorsement for the show than anything. What Netflix has done is take a very mediocre framework and build something utterly fantastic on it. I'm sure they're paying Piper Kerman dearly for the rights to her story, but I feel like

    should be paying

    .

  • Angie
    Nov 18, 2013

    So, I read the reviews and people in the "dislike" camp are right. It's a memoir, so it's about

    experience. The author's well off and a WASP and she had it

    easy in prison what with all the letters, books and visits she received from family and friends. There are no major conclusions about the sociology of her experience nor are there calls to action on ways for people to address any of the many things prison does not do for society. But I repeat, it is a

    .

    What we get is a l

    So, I read the reviews and people in the "dislike" camp are right. It's a memoir, so it's about

    experience. The author's well off and a WASP and she had it

    easy in prison what with all the letters, books and visits she received from family and friends. There are no major conclusions about the sociology of her experience nor are there calls to action on ways for people to address any of the many things prison does not do for society. But I repeat, it is a

    .

    What we get is a look at what prison did to a healthy, sane woman, written in a clear, grammatically correct and engaging, storytelling style. We get the psychological journey and it is enough to make me never want to go to jail, because even though she exited unscathed when compared to other prisoners, she still had a horrid experience. It is up to the reader to flex those mental muscles, to practice a little empathy and draw the connections to the question of "what if Piper were one of the other ones?"

    For example, the author describes the experience of exiting the prison system: The lack of communication of what she could expect, the return-to-society "training" she was required to take, the description of having to give away all her things and leave dressed in one set of clothes that weren't even hers, with nothing in her pocket but the $28.50* she'd earned in prison work. She was crazed, became paranoid and scared because she was being released in a city thousands of miles from her family. And

    was an educated woman who had someone coming to pick her up.

    She told her story. It is my job to make connections to the appropriateness of jail and other forms of revenge and punishment that are socially acceptable in our civilization. To educate myself about programs written about in Shorris's

    and

    .

    .

    I liked this book. I think it is important because as an educated woman, I can relate. I can see myself in her shoes. And

    is the power of this book- to get people who wouldn't think that it could ever happen to them to see that it has happened to people like them. And maybe getting me to see myself in those shoes will get me to reflect how we as a society punish law breaking.

    *I made that number up.

  • Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin
    Apr 08, 2015

    I totally picked up this book because I love the show on Netflix and wanted to read about the real deal.

    This is one of my favorite shows and it's funny because I could pick out some of the real people in the book that are in the show. Obviously the real names are not given.

    Piper talks about the stupid, stupid drug stuff she got into with Nora. I mean moving drugs and money for a drug lord, come on. And then 10 years later, she gets caught and taken to jail! Just when you think you turned your

    I totally picked up this book because I love the show on Netflix and wanted to read about the real deal.

    This is one of my favorite shows and it's funny because I could pick out some of the real people in the book that are in the show. Obviously the real names are not given.

    Piper talks about the stupid, stupid drug stuff she got into with Nora. I mean moving drugs and money for a drug lord, come on. And then 10 years later, she gets caught and taken to jail! Just when you think you turned your life around, um, NOT! And then when they tell her she is going to trial and then to prison, it takes 6 years to get to the trial. I would have went nuts every day of those 6 years!

    Piper talks about life in prison and about the friends she actually made there. I really enjoyed reading about this because it make it a little nicer having friends.

    Piper really did have a job in the electrical area and people came and went from jobs, from the prison. It seemed like every time she made a good friend, they were off to to somewhere else.

    Piper had a lot of people visiting her in the jail, unlike in the tv series. Larry, her fiance came all of the time. But she had friends and family coming all of the time. She was getting letters and tons of BOOKS in the mail. Yes, books! What would we do without our books! =)

    I did enjoy this book a lot. The author also does an interview at the back of the book and she has a lot of references to different things concerning women in jail. I'm going to look into some of them!

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