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Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

September 18, 2016

“Two hundred women, no phones, no washing machines, no hair dryers--it was like Lord of the Flies on estrogen.”
― Piper Kerman, Orange Is the New Black

 

4****

Having watched some of OITNB without succumbing to its apparent lure, I was skeptical about the book this popular series is based on, added to that, I tend to shy away from non-fiction. However, I come away from it feeling glad to have taken the plunge. Kerman comes across as flawed but thoughtful, and her insight into the prison system here in the US was fascinating and disturbing at once. She tells of her time in prison for a long past offense of her youth, but also of the crimes of many of her fellow inmates, many of which, as I see it, do not fit the punishment. To be imprisoned for years for actions that may be illegal, but do not cause harm to others, feels harsh, particularly when it means families are broken up, children go without seeing their mothers, etc.
I liked the way Kerman conveyed the stories of some of her fellow inmates and friends, which served to damped her undeniably privileged persona upon entering the prison. She also doesn't create drama for the sake of the story, which I appreciated, and the story she tells is far more believable than what is shown in the TV series (though maybe I'm wrong... hopefully not!) I also like the real Piper Kerman much better than the fictionalized one on the show.
In any case, I am glad I read this book and would absolutely recommend it to anyone skeptical about dipping their toes into the non-fiction pool, or who is interested in learning more about the US prison system for women.

 

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