Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
Unlike many people, I did not find out about this book solely through the Netflix series. I first became aware of Piper Kerman and her year spent in a women's prison back in May 2013 while listening to NPR's radio show "The Moth." At some point before the show got picked up by Netflix, Ms. Kerman told part of her story during one of the Moth events and at the end, the announcer mentioned the show. I liked what I heard, so I gave the show a chance and quickly fell in love with the dramedy. The show is a loose interpretation of Ms. Kerman's experience.
In the book, Orange is the New Black, Kerman chronologically details her year of incarceration, highlighting the lessons she learned, the relationships she forged, and her distaste for the treatment of inmates in the American prison system.
Growing up as a privileged American, turned temporary drug-trafficker, Ms. Kerman is pulled away from her now-legal life 10 years after her trafficking infraction. She learns almost immediately after being locked up that she is in no way different from the women who are incarcerated alongside her. Against the advice of her lawyer and friends on the outside, she slowly learns who she can trust and establishes vital friendships with inmates. My favorite inmate is "Pop", hands down, followed closely by "Janet", the yoga teacher. Kerman also learns handy life skills, like electrical work, construction, and how to make prison cheesecake (of which she gives you the recipe). Every so often, she will get on her soapbox and highlight the many injustices within the justice system. Since her release, Kerman has worked to help bring awareness to said injustices.
Orange is the New Black is a quick and pleasant read, especially if you like the Netflix series. Kerman's story-telling is quick paced, and her writing style is professional, yet informal, as if she's writing very well to an old friend.