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Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

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After other blogger comments about the book and seeing the very satisfying Season 2 finale for Orange Is the New Black, I decided to give the real Piper’s memoir a go and listen to the audio book.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
After finishing college, young Piper Kerman craves something different than the beaten down path other graduates are following. She wants excitement and adventure, but isn’t exactly sure how to find it until she meets Nora and discovers that her new girlfriend is a drug smuggler. Piper slowly becomes part of Nora’s world travelling to exotic locations and hanging out in luxurious hotels. When she carries out one illegal task for Nora, the reality of the world she’s living in comes crashing down on Piper’s head. She heads home to the United States and tries to begin some kind of normal life. She meets and becomes engaged to Larry, and the past seems left far behind until the day the police come to charge her as a member of the drug ring from so many years ago. Piper is sentenced to fourteen months in prison and this memoir provides an account of her time as an inmate learning how to navigate prison life, the wide-ranging personalities of both her fellow inmates and the prison staff, and how her imprisonment affected her relationship with Larry and her family.

THE GOOD
I enjoyed Orange is the New Black because it was a fascinating look at life in a women’s prison, how women go to prison for different reasons and have different ways of surviving, and the sweet friendships Piper developed with other inmates.

THE BAD
The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, uses different voices for male staff or inmates with foreign accents, such as Russian or Jamaican. While it broke up the monotony of straight narration and could be quite amusing, it occurred to me the accents could possibly be viewed as offensive.

CONCLUSION
Much of the criticism I read about Orange is the New Black is that the book is from the perspective of a white, middle class woman and nothing much happens to this white, middle class woman while in prison. While this may be true, as a memoir the book is one woman’s personal experience and I think still a valid perspective. I’m pretty sure if I went to prison, I would go in with similar middle class naiveté. I can’t help coming from a certain social background and neither can Piper Kerman. The book is very different from the Netflix series and I think I like it even more for this reason. OITNB is in your face with absurd and hilarious jaw-dropping situations. The book is quiet and reflective.

3.5/5 Stars

P.S. The real Larry wrote his own Goodreads review of the book. Although, I feel like he rushed what he wrote, almost as if he was afraid Piper would catch him. larry

P.P.S. The real Nora is apparently coming out with a book entitled,”Out of Orange”, so it looks like we may have a book smackdown in the works.

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10 comments on “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

  1. lauratfrey
    August 20, 2014

    LOL at Larry’s review! Good catch! He recently had an article somewhere about his side of the prison experience (I’ll have to find the link for my own review) and I found his perspective really interesting. Both he and Piper are excellent writers.

    I was most surprised about how much of Piper and Larry they changed for the show. They are both made out to be kind of spoiled, lazy and clueless, when really, they were (and are) pretty driven and ambitious.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 20, 2014

      Ooh, I can’t wait to read your post! Maybe the producers wanted their version of Piper and Larry to match the exaggerated craziness of the show. It may have made more sense to have two drama queens as opposed to a sensible couple.

      Like

  2. Cathy746books
    August 20, 2014

    I have Season One of this but haven’t watched it yet. Looking forward to it though…

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 21, 2014

      Ooh, have fun and be prepared for some craziness. I look forward to hearing what you think about the show.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lauratfrey
    August 21, 2014

    Nice find! The more recent Larry article is the one I read. The “real” Alex’s memoir should be interesting…

    Like

  4. Amber O (AmberBug)
    August 22, 2014

    I love that you included that review by Piper’s boyfriend, great research!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 22, 2014

      Thank you! Another blogger mentioned the real Larry article and I was trying to track it down.

      Like

  5. DoingDewey
    August 25, 2014

    Even though I’m sure some people have much harder lives and much harder prison experiences than Piper, I really appreciated that she used her book as a commentary on how poorly prison prepares people for anything but more time in prison. I found it meaningful as well as a fun read 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 28, 2014

      Yes, that’s a good point and the statistics she cited for the number of people in prison was astounding.

      Like

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