Orange Is the New Black

Thursday, April 17, 2014

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

Like everyone else, I first heard about this book after marathon watching the Netflix TV series of the same name. The show is great, but the book is actually an excellent nonfiction memoir in its own right. Piper is relatable enough that it’s easy to picture yourself in her situation. 

The book could easily have been subtitled: First World Problems. The picture of prison that Piper paints is an interesting one, but it’s not very scary. She gets pedicures and has time catch up on reading classics. One of her biggest problems is that the prison store is out of the radios that you need to listen to the audio on the movies they show, so she's stuck watching the movies with no sound.

She touches on more serious issues like sexual harassment from guards, lack of preparation for prisoners re-entering the work force, prisoner health problems, minority persecution, etc. but she never really has to deal with any of those things. They feel like distant possibilities, not real issues people are facing. To be fair, Piper acknowledges the fact that she is very lucky to not have to deal with those problems. 

That being said, it was a really fun read. I knew the basic premise before I started it because of the TV series. If you are already a fan of the show I would encourage you to check this out. I was actually expecting there to be many more differences, but the show is just a sensationalized version of the book. There are added bits of drama in each episode, but much of the plot is based on her real experiences. 

BOTTOM LINE: Read it if you love the show or are a fan of nonfiction. Don’t expect a revealing look at the American prison system.


Bybee said...

I just read this a couple of weeks ago and liked it much better than I thought I would. Am trying to pull together a review of this and Brother One Cell, comparing the two.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I was interested in the book back when it came out because I love memoirs. Never got to it, which isn't a huge shock. But now the TV series (I have way too many going right now), which a couple of my friends LOVE. Someday, when I'm caught up (ha), I'll sit down and watch it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bybee - I felt the same way. For some reason I didn't think I'd like it very much.

Sandy - You have been watching so many geat shows lately! This one is addictive. Once you start it you won't want to stop.

Laura said...

I think Piper is really aware of her privilege even in the prison situation, so even when things get hard for her, she acknowledges that they're probably even harder for a lot of the other women. I think that was the saving grace of the book, really, although I think she maybe had it harder than just not getting a radio, like that whole not being able to see her loved ones or do literally anything she wanted to do thing? Lol.

Anyway! Liked the book, LOVE the show, can't wait for June.

Jillian said...

I love the show. I read this a while ago and didn't really like Piper, though I think that is the magic behind the popularity of this book. She is a very believable person, and you just can't help but want to learn more.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Laura - I did appreciate that. She never makes out like she has it worse off than the other inmates. She acknowledges her position. She definitely had it much harder than just the radio, I meant her life inside the prison. Obviously just being in prison is hard, but the life she was leading inside was not as hard as I thought it might be.

Jillian - That's very true. Even if you don't particularly like her, you can relate to her.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Yup--we totally binged on the show as well, even though Scott didn't think he'd have any interest in it. Like a bad train wreck--hard to look away. But it was also so heartbreaking to see some of the more serious back stories for the inmates. I know I shed tears a few times.

I'm glad to hear your perspective on this one as you watched the show before encountering the book. I've been interested in the book but didn't know if it was worthwhile after already having seen the series. I wondered if it would color my reading. I'll have to give it a go.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - It was definitely interesting to figure out what was fact and what was fiction in the show. I am so excited for season two!