06 October 2012

Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Published: 6 April 2010 by Spiegel & Grau

Pages: 298

Genre/s: Memoir

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


When FBI agents knocked on her door to investigate a ten-year-old crime, Piper Kerman barely resembled the reckless young woman she was shortly after graduating Smith College. Happily ensconced in a New York City apartment, with a promising career and an attentive boyfriend, she was suddenly forced to reckon with the consequences of her very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking a decade earlier.

Following a plea deal, she spent 15 months at “Club Fed,” the infamous women’s correctional facility in Danbury, CT, where she not only gained a unique perspective on the criminal justice system, but also met a surprising and varied community of women living under exceptional circumstances. In Orange Is the New Black, Piper Kerman tells the dramatic story of those long months under lockdown, in a place with its own codes of behavior and arbitrary hierarchies, where a practical joke is as common as an unprovoked fistfight, and where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated.

My Thoughts

Orange is the New Black grabbed my attention simply because I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in prison, with everything you do dictated by some higher power, living up-close-and-personal with a bunch of strangers, not knowing who your friends are, and only seeing your family and friends when someone else says it's OK. Scary thoughts, right?

The thing that I found most intriguing with Piper's story is the fact that she had several years between being sentenced and actually going to jail. What must it feel like to have the spectre of prison time hanging over your head for so long? I wish there had been some more focus on this aspect of her story - although she does explain how people reacted, I wanted to know more about how it affected her day to day life. But perhaps, with several years intermission, she just got on with things as much as possible.

With a large cast of characters, I did sometimes find myself a little confused as to who was who, and what their relationship to Piper was - although I understand that some of them were very private and didn't share their lives with Piper, so it would have been difficult to write about them in a way that made different people easily identifiable.

Easily the most disturbing part of her story came towards the end, when she was moved to Chicago to be a witness in another case - her trip on Con Air, and her stay in Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Centre really highlighted the terrible faults in the prison system, although Danbury was certainly no picnic.

Unfortunately I didn't find Piper easy to connect or empathise with, which was both a negative and a positive. A negative in that I couldn't put myself in her shoes, but a positive in that I could see the bigger picture of what was happening around her, without being caught up in emotion.

I did expect Orange is the New Black to be a little tougher, and a little grittier, but it was the stories of friendship, co-operation and unity between the majority of the prisoners that really made this book for me. 


  1. Well, this book really looks different from anything I have read before.
    It addresses a strange subject, and a very heart breaking one at that.
    I will definitely give this book a try. The name is really intriguing, by the way.
    GREAT review, Kat.
    Your constant reader (but never comment-er!)

  2. Thanks for commenting Soma :-D

    This was certainly an interesting read, and being set in a minimum security prison it had a whole lot of things going on that I could never have imagined!

  3. This does not sound like my kind of book at all.

    Also, I really LOATHE the 'blah is the new black' phrase. The 90s called, and they want it BACK.

    1. Bahahahaha! So true. Maybe it was set in the 1990s...I forget!

  4. Ah, like the cover, have never heard of this book before. It does look interesting, maybe I will pick it up someday but not so soon.

    1. But you know why I read this one right - colour, title, in August ;-)



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