Title: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
Author: Piper Kerman
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Publication Date: 2010
With her career, live-in boyfriend and loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the rebellious young woman who, over a decade ago, got mixed up with drug runners and delivered a suitcase of drug money to Europe. But when she least expects it, her reckless past catches up with her: convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at an infamous women’s prison in Connecticut, Piper becomes inmate #11187-424. From her first strip search to her final release, she learns to navigate this strange world with its arbitrary rules and codes, its unpredictable, even dangerous relationships. And she meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with tokens of generosity, hard truths and simple acts of acceptance.
Orange is the New Black is a memoir written by Piper Kerman about serving her sentence in an American women’s prison. What first led me to read this book was the Netflix adaptation of the same name. The show is a favourite of mine and I was fascinated to learn it was (though rather loosely) based on a true story.
I am not usually drawn to non-fiction, however, the basis of the book is intriguing. Piper is often relatable and tells her story with both heartfelt anecdotes and sharp observations of other people, especially the other women in prison. You connect to her story and do not just see her as a criminal which is often the way prisoners are represented. She is a woman who made bad choices; this is how I felt both at the beginning and the end of the novel.
I felt so much empathy, not only for Piper, but also for the other women incarcerated. They are not presented to you through their crimes but through their personalities and the way Piper interacts with them, which creates a much more open minded view when reading.
What I loved most about this book is how truthful it is; it highlighted both the worst of humanity and the best. Small gestures of kindness women did for Piper and vice versa have stuck with me and are, in my opinion, the strongest elements of the book. The honesty she has when describing other women and the guards is very refreshing, as well as how she copes with her own feelings throughout her time.
In regards to the Netflix adaptation of the show, it was fun to be able to spot the real people in the book which the characters are based upon. Some are very much direct copies, with similar names, personalities and even exact dialogue being taken from the book. Other characters in the show are a combination of two or three of the people described in the book and some are brand new. Being able to see the way in which the show uses this as a starting platform and then creates more upon it was fascinating and I really enjoyed this element when reading.
I highly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, especially if you are already a fan of the show. Even if you are unfamiliar however, this book is an insightful read and a fascinating true story of one woman’s experience of what really happens in prison.