Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman detailing her time spent in prison. It’s now become a quite popular Netflix show as well. Kerman takes us on her journey, from the day she carried a suitcase full of drug money to ten years later, when she went to Danbury Prison for thirteen months to pay for her crime.
This book has so much tension that it reads almost like fiction instead of memoir. There is a natural plot arc and plenty of surprises along the way. It kept me turning pages the whole time. I loved reading about Kerman’s adventures in her jobs, the food and items prisoners found inventive ways to create, and the drama she managed to avoid.
The people Kerman meets in prison are written in wonderful detail, making them very real, but very interesting as well. It’s fascinating to see how differently each woman handles being in prison and the dynamics that unfold within the walls. From those who go “gay for the stay” to those who feel more at home being in lockup than out, there are plenty of “characters” to make things entertaining. We also see how Kerman’s family handles her being in prison. She has friends who mail books by the truck load, a visitors’ list that’s so long, it’s constantly rotating to fit everyone in, and a fiancé so dedicated and loyal that he visits every week and handles the rest of life on his own, while being a support for Kerman.
Kerman has a wonderfully witty and snarky tone. She doesn’t sugar coat the horrors, yet she also points out the bits of beauty to be found, nowhere matter where you are or how difficult things become. It’s easy to read and well written.
There’s something beautiful in the way people come together to help each other in difficult circumstances. Kerman’s time feels almost more like a character study of people than a prison memoir at times. But her journey is a short one, compared to most of the women she meets, and it gives us a unique perspective on what happens to a life put on hold for thirteen months.
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Did you read it? What did you think?