Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman // Book Review


Netflix original drama, Orange is the New Black has taken us by storm over the past year, but did you know that it is based on a book, under the same name? I can never usually read the book of something, if I have seen the TV show or movie first, (I find it really hard to get into them), but I decided to make an exception for OITNB and put everything I knew about the series to one side, and picked up the book with a fresh mind.

Piper Kerman, a graduate fresh out of Smith wanted adventure, which is exactly what she got when she fell in love with Nora Jansen. Travelling all over the world, jumping from waterfalls, eating exotic cuisines, and smuggling drug money for her girlfriends international drug ring, she couldn't have been more happier. When she realised that this is not the life she had signed up for, she took the first available plane back to America, where she met Larry, her now husband, and left that dark part of her life behind her, or at least she thought she had. Almost ten years after, in what seemed like an entirely different lifetime Piper was charged with money laundering  and sentenced to fifteen months in prison.

During those fifteen months, Piper forged relationships with other inmates, (whom on the outside world, she probably wouldn't have acknowledged) learning of their pasts and was given a job in the prisons electrical and hardware programs. She focused herself by keeping her head down and getting ripped or stretching it out with Yoga Janet in the gym. Although the names of some people and places have been changed to protect identities, the essence of Kerman’s story remains true: She was separated from her life, her fianc√©, her job, for a menial crime she committed ten years prior, and was forced to surrender, whilst murderers, and big time drug lords were going free.

Kermans memoir, of her life in prison, is heartfelt and raw, everything she feels, you feel. Her life has been messed up, and she is learning to function as a woman behind bars. From the morning showers, to mess hall routines, she has to learn the rules and try not to piss anyone off, which seems easy enough, until she is forced to move prison, and share a cell with her drug dealing exgirlfriend. As Piper loses contact with Larry and her family, the relationship between the exlovers grows, until the point where Piper has to decide, if she really wants her in her life.

As with most memoirs, you would expect Kerman to be incredibly narcissistic, and given by her background, you would also expect her to be considerably snobby towards the other inmates, however, Kerman is quite the opposite. The story isn't about her, but is about her time in prison, the difference being her focus on the other prisoners. We learn of how the instabilities within the system are constantly stopping felons from rehabilitating, how unfairly they are treated, and the abuse many prisoners suffer whilst under the care of these facilities. 

If this were a comparison between the book and the the show, I would say that the show has heavily changed the book, but only in a way, which allows it to be conveyed on screen, and to make it relatable. However, this is not a comparison between a TV show and the book it is based on, it is a review of a woman’s autobiography, written about her time in prison.

The Memoir shows Kerman during the highs and lows of her incarceration, the happiness she feels after visits with Larry, and the sadness she feels towards the other inmates after family day. From the issue of her plimsoles, to the day she finally gets released, the memoir reveals the secrets of the U.S prison system, and highlights just how bad some prisons can be. In the words of the Author "we have a radically biased justice system that over punishes, fails to rehabilitate, and doesn't make us safer". 

If you are interested in learning about the US prison system from an insiders point of view, are a fan of the show, or just want something different to read, then I would honestly recommend reading this book. Since reading Orange is the New Black, I have definitely reevaluated my views of the prison system, and the inmates they house. Some People are bad, and some people just make bad choices. 

The book is available to buy an Amazon, and the first two season of the TV show can be streamed on Netflix.

Have you read Orange is the New Black? What did you think? 

What book should I read next? Leave a comment below, and I'll add it to my list!

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