Piper Kerman: Orange Is The New Black

If you’re looking for jaw-dropping drama of prison life, unexpected turns, bumps in the road, or anything close to real experiences of hardships, this book may not be for you. Instead, what you’ll find is an account of the prison experience of an “atypical” female inmate, Piper Kerman. Unlike most of her fellow inmates, she’s a white, blonde, blue-eyed, middle class career women with a boyfriend/fiance, Larry, who seems completely understanding of her past. Also, unlike most other inmates whose criminal behavior was related to a need to survive, Kerman’s involvement in a decade old drug crime was the result of youthful curiosity and desire for adventure. Her experience in prison also seems atypical in that her race and educational background allots her several privileges that enable her to escape grueling experiences others may have. At least that’s the way she makes it seem.

Despite being completely void of drama or tension, I did find myself returning to the book multiple times a day. What I found most intriguing is the insight this book provides into the social norms of the particular prison she was at for nearly 2 years. Women who look after each other, special movie nights and dishes prepared in the microwave, the norms of greeting new inmates with gifts and the specific questions asked, etc. It sheds light on the fact that in any situation, where there is more than 1 person, there will be norms of some sort. And when those norms are broken, there are consequences. The book also provides insight into the fact that many female inmates are not adequately prepared to face the outside world. For instance, women in prison are not really taught how to find legitimate employment other than being advised to use the Internet. The problem, however, lies in the fact that most of these women either don’t know how to use computers or don’t own them. It’s no surprise, therefore, that inmates often return to prison shortly after release. Overall, it’s not the most action-packed book, but much can still be gained.

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