Like any red-blooded TV watcher with good taste, I am a huge fan of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. I mean, what’s not to like?
I waited a long time to read the book, because I knew as a memoir it would lack the spicy salaciousness of the show. I am glad I jumped in, however. Piper Kerman does an excellent job of describing her personal experience as a woman incarcerated for white-collar crime, and she explains the kinds of sentencing injustices served to all kinds of people for strange and petty things. Kerman does a great job of portraying her story while being clear that her case is unusual and not the typified prison experience. Her self-aware voice navigates race, gender, and socioeconomic status with grace and dignity, and she does a great job telling other people’s stories in the limited voice that she does have.
You know the story, so I won’t get into it, but I will say that the book is worth reading as a standalone. You find out the kinds of things that Kerman gets involved with to stay sane, the friends she makes, and the lessons she learns about others and herself. It’s one of the better memoirs that I’ve read, particularly because it mixes dark humor with pathos and humility. I’d recommend reading this book whether or not you like the show, because it gives you a glimpse into a world that most of us don’t even think about. It’s an interesting true story, and there are sobering problems in our justice system that Kerman tries valiantly to bring to our attention, just as it was brought to hers.
I enjoyed it quite a bit. Now, I just have two more episodes left to finish out Season 2!