As someone who relies almost exclusively on Hulu and Netflix for her TV entertainment, I know I was late to the “Orange Is the New Black” party. I waited until this summer to finally watch this Netflix exclusive series. The premise, life inside a women’s prison, had me fascinated. When I discovered the show was based on a real life memoir by Piper Kerman I jumped on my Kindle and bought a copy pronto.
As I expected, the true story does not have the sexy drama we see on Netflix. However, I was surprised to see many parallels between the book and the show. Like on the show, the real Piper did become involved with a drug dealer and they led a pretty glamorous life traveling the globe. Also, many of the women Kerman met in jail clearly served as inspiration for characters we meet in the show. The same goes for some of the experiences Kerman had while incarcerated.
I was interested to read about Kerman’s real life experiences in prison. One of the things that surprised me was the kindness she experienced from other inmates when she first arrived. Sensing that Kerman was frightened and alone, many women greeted her kindly and supplied her with toiletry items she would otherwise be without in the first few weeks while her commissary account was being set up. As I read on I found this was customary for newcomers.
Kerman also confirmed that prison could be extremely boring and the most common way to fill the hours was reading. She also took up running and became physically fit. There is a tiny part of me that thinks this might be lovely. However the downside is you need to commit a crime to get there. I also had a hard time accepting the boredom claim since Kerman and her fellow inmates all had jobs assigned to them. According to her story Kerman worked several hours a day as an electrician. That alone seems like a good time filler.
A common criticism of this book is that Kerman came off as snooty since she constantly reminded the reader that she was not your typical prisoner, being white, educated and upper-middle-classed. I didn’t notice this when I read the book. The criticism I have is that the writing was not as good as I would have expected. The prose is a little choppy and Kerman’s attempts at humor failed with me. The story also ends rather abruptly. We get nothing about how Kerman assimilated back to her life after her 14 month sentence.
If you are looking for an interesting memoir or are a fan of the Netflix series, I recommend “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” by Piper Kerman. Overall I enjoyed the book and give it a classic Mrs. B.