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

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  69,303 ratings  ·  8,179 reviews
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424—one...more
Audiobook, unabridged
Published July 23rd 2012 by Tantor Media (first published April 6th 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Larry Smith
[Spoiler alert as to the ending of the book! Read at your own risk.]
I'm biased because Piper is my wife, and I'm in this book. But I still think it's am amazing journey story. I'm pretty sure if I didn't know Piper I would be spreading the word on ORANGE just as I've done other books. I read a pre-hype galley of Eat Pray Love, thought it was amazing, and sent to at least 5 friends. So there. Read Piper's book: you'll be really glad you did.
Lynn
What a shocker! A well-educated, upper class white woman goes to prison and builds strong bonds with her fellow inmates, who are mostly undereducated women of color from the wrong side of the tracks.

I liked the book and I liked her. I did. But it irritates me that she seems to be marketing the book as this revealing story about how we're all just human after all. I didn't find her writing condescending of the other women. I found her to be non-judgmental and a truly good friend to everyone wort...more
Vanessa
After a very hearty recommendation from several people I trust, I started watching the Netflix original TV show Orange is The New Black. While it can be a little disjointed and awkward in parts, it has its charm. The characters are memorable and the story-lines are very compelling. While I haven't had time to marathon the series in its entirety, I thought to check out Piper Kerman's candid memoir of her life in prison, where she was incarcerated for a drug trafficking charge almost a decade afte...more
Barb
I really wanted to give this a better review, because I love it on Netflix.
Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn't seen the show first.
Basically, I felt like this story lacked depth, was repetitive and quite often felt phoney. I was annoyed by the constant reminders that Piper's blue eyes and blonde hair made her life pretty easy, and that her inclusion with the "popular" crowd (aka: Pop's friends) got her lots of perks. Characters were underdeveloped and there was no real flow. Oh, and d...more
Joice
Allow me to summarize: "So, I am a privileged, white girl who was lost and confused. I made some mistakes, including becoming involved with an international drug ring. Oopsie. However, by the grace of my own incredible will, I got out, met a nice boy, and became a productive citizen. Then boom! Somebody snitched, and the government baddies came and put me in prison. But I was stoic! My heavens, was I ever! I accepted my fate and the consequences for my actions. And I was also pretty special. Des...more
Angie
So, I read the reviews and people in the "dislike" camp are right. It's a memoir, so it's about her experience. The author's well off and a WASP and she had it relatively easy in prison what with all the letters, books and visits she received from family and friends. There are no major conclusions about the sociology of her experience nor are there calls to action on ways for people to address any of the many things prison does not do for society. But I repeat, it is a memoir.

What we get is a l...more
Debbie
It's not often that I outright dislike a book, but I disliked this one. Intensely. With a passion. I feel a little bad about that, as a good friend recommended it for our book club, but I'm guessing I had a surly face when I showed up to discuss it that evening.

In terms of the writing, my main gripe is that nothing happens. "How is that possible?" you ask. "This privileged, blonde, Smith graduate went to jail!" Yes. This is true. And I have no idea how it's possible that nothing happens, but thi...more
PhobicPrerogative
The details in this book were impressive, but it got tiring eventually. I suppose she had to stretch out everything that happened that year into those pages.
There were also a lot of women mentioned, and my head was spinning, trying to keep track of them.

Although well-written, the one thing I honestly didn't like about this memoir is that the author came off as a bit smug, like she was better than the other prisoners.
There was a "Mary Sue" impression I got of her, the woman who got along with ev...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 26, 2012 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: for those who enjoy autobiographies and memoirs, prison stories, interested in sociology
This book was remarkably enjoyable to read. The writing is light and breezy, and it’s very well written, though not beautifully written; it’s a very straightforward account.

Even though the author was so much more privileged than a typical women inmate, I got a good feel for not only her experiences but those of the even more unfortunate inmates.

I learned a lot about life on the inside. One main thing is if you’re a nice person and you treat others well and you’re open to relationships with other...more
Terry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane
There are so many things I liked about this book! In 2004, Piper Kerman spent a year in a women's prison for a decade-old drug offense. Her memoir is thoughtful, enlightening and, at times, humorous. I'm not surprised it was adapted into a successful TV series on Netflix -- it's a perfect fish-out-of-water story.

Piper -- who is a white, upper-middle class college graduate from Boston -- is upfront about how stupid she was in her early 20s. In 1993, Piper was hanging out with a woman, Nora, who b...more
Alaine
Wow. Did the makers of the show hone in on this book as a raw idea, then flesh it out to make the show? Because the show is freakin' GENIUS and...let's just say I am not picking up on genius from the book. It begins early on, when Piper lets us know that she wasted all those years in an elite university majoring in theater without any actual life goals in mind. And she doesn't seem embarrassed about this at all.

She goes through prison acting like a whiny, spoiled, entitled, rich brat. And then...more
Matt
As we always hear, conflict is the essence of interesting drama. I think that's the biggest problem I had with this story-- the author (and publisher) assume that the mere fact that a well educated white girl from a wealthy family will be going to prison is enough drama to float the entire book. They're wrong, but not by much.

Kerman's story is rather interesting in the first few chapters, but the crime and arrest lose about 90% of their immediacy because of the crazy ten year delay between them....more
Sara McCarty
So, I haven’t watched the show yet, but I’ve heard so much good stuff about it that I think I got my hopes up way too high for the book. Maybe 2 stars was a little harsh, because I did think it was well written and I found the subject matter interesting. However, I just didn’t like the narrator and had a hard time relating to her (despite her being small, blonde, blue-eyed, educated, runner, etc.). I think she was trying so hard not to sound whiny and condescending that she came across as whiny...more
Christine
This is a rare book that I didn't like yet it was a good book club selection. Why you ask? Because it sparked a lot of good discussion. I've never seen the show but several friends raved about how wonderful it was, so when I read this book I kept waiting for it to get good and it never happened.

Let's dig in...Piper wanted an adventure and her girlfriend point blank told her (up front!) she was in the drug business. Piper didn't flinch at this. Okay, for someone who didn't even dabble in drugs,...more
Libby
Some people go into therapy, some become artists, others follow a spiritual path to find their true selves. Piper Kerman went to jail instead. Convicted of being a drug courier, a youthful folly she got into when she was enamored of the woman who got her involved with this, she was arrested 10 years after the incident and had to serve over a year in prison. However, she emerged a changed woman: she saw how she had wounded so many people by her recklessness and self-centeredness, saw what drugs h...more
Lynn
First, let me fully admit, that it is my own fault that I thought this was going to be a good book. I failed to pay attention to the title, which essentially screams Sex in the City meets Prison. Instead, I read the subtitle, My Year in a Women's Prison, and imagined that it was an entirely different book - one of substance. I also failed to notice that the cover endorsement quote is from the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Lastly, I work with prisoners, so I am particularly sensitive to inaccurate p...more
Flannery
I was hesitant to read this and, in fact, had it on my Kindle for months before I got around to reading it, because I'd heard it wasn't so great. But when I did finally read it, I regretted waiting so long. One of the main criticisms of this book is that Piper never seems apologetic for her crimes. I don't agree with that at all. For one, by the time she went to prison, it's nearly two decades since her crime. Secondly, I wondered throughout the entire book, what is the point of this sentence? I...more
Ngan
I agree with Piper Kerman that women's prisons are not written about as much as men's prisons and that prison in general is a horrible place and shows how prison truly fails to rehabilitate. I liked that Piper Kerman shed some light on how it is within women's prison walls--tight inside rules, terrible governance, dirty showers. I liked her list of resources at the end.

What I didn't like about this memoir was how judgmental and superior the author is to her situation. She barely takes responsib...more
Barks & Bites
3 1/2 stars

Listening Length: 11 hours and 14 minutes
Version: Unabridged Audiobook
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

Imagine doing something criminally dumb as an impetuous twenty-something, getting away with it and having it come back to haunt you just when you’ve got it all together? That’s what happened to Piper Kerman.

Piper was a young, adventurous college graduate who fell into a lesbian affair with a slightly older woman who was making her money in the drug trade. Piper q...more
Kurt
I should confess my bias from the start - I am a public defender in western Massachusetts, so not liking this book would be like not rooting for the home team. Thankfully, this is an easy book to love. Kerman is a gifted narrator, sharing details of a directionless post-grad life after college, when she joined up with an exotic older woman for international vacations that just happened to involve the arrangements of drug transactions at the margins. I think she portrays herself as a bit more nai...more
emi Bevacqua
Underachieving Piper Kerman came from a privileged background, graduated Smith College, and craved adventure. She left her waitressing job to travel the world with a drug-trafficking lesbian lover, whom she aided and abetted, retrieving money wires for, couriering suitcases full of cash, etc. Abruptly she severed all ties with her "drug family" and put her criminal life behind her. Ten years later, while working a legitimate job and engaged in a heterosexual relationship, she was indicted on cha...more
Larry Bassett
This book has been on my TBR shelf since August 2010. Prisons are one of my areas of interest. I have been involved with the peace movement a good part of my life and nonviolent civil disobedience is part of the toolbox. Sometimes people end up in jail. I came close but never quite made it. My Mom spent time in jail for “crossing the line” at a company that manufactured parts for nuclear weapons and also at an actual missile site. Crossing the line is kind of like daring someone. There is a line...more
Bekah Porter-Sandy
Piper Kerman sort of blows my mind. A bi-sexual, drug-mule-ing, adventure-seeking, graduate of a crazy good university --- she sort of has the entire package when it comes to what you seek in someone writing a memoir. Additionally,this book held a special personal appeal, as my current body of research and scholarly work focuses on female inmates and their inherent societal worth.
So you can imagine that I was expecting great things to come from reading this book. Instead, I got just good things...more
aPriL loves HalLowEen


Piper Kerman made a terrible mistake in 1993 when she was fresh out of college. At loose ends and seeking thrills, she sought out the 'wild side' as vocalized by the singer Lou Reed. She was 24. From her book, Kerman appears to be of an automatically knee-jerk rebellious nature, so in spite of her WASP privileges and family expectations, she majored in theater. After graduation, she rejects pursuing a career in theater after all, and instead convinced herself living the life of the pretender art...more
Converse

The title refers to the title of a New York Times fashion article, which a friend of Piper Kerman sent her shortly after she was imprisoned in the minimum security portion of the federal women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut. I wouldn’t have dared.


Piper Kerman was imprisoned for 15 months (she served 13) for smuggling drug money. After graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts during the early 1990s, she stayed in Northampton and became the lover of a woman, Nora (an alias invented to prot

...more
Flannery
I found myself much more interested in the stories the author tells about other inmates and explanations about prison activities than in the author herself. I get it--you ran a lot. You liked to do yoga. What I actually cared about were the relationships she built with fellow inmates and then I was left completely unsatisfied at the end. THAT is what mattered to me--putting faces, names, and stories with people in the prison system. I am very glad that Kerman went over the dismal state of reentr...more
Catherine Ryan Howard
The Netflix series based on this book is some of the best TV I've seen recently, so I was excited to read the book although I knew it wasn't going to be the same as the show has a lot of differences -- and I was glad about that, because why would I bother reading the exact the same story I'd just watched?!

This is a very well written and captivating book, and what's funny is that I thought the main part, where she's in Danbury (the low security prison depicted in the show), actually seemed a lot...more
Elizabeth
Uh. Prison is horrible. Absolutely horrible. I read this book because I have seen a few episodes of the series and I was curious about the difference between fact and fiction. Let's just say that much of the TV series is dramatized. Still, I think it's a great book about a segment of society that does not get much ink (particularly women in prison).

Funny story: When I was a young journalist I used to get letters sent to my place of work from a guy in prison. I don't know how or why he found our...more
Megan (Book Brats)
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK was a book I read on a whim, found amongst my shelves from some long ago thrift store trip I assume. It’s a prison memoir about a long ago crime, a year in federal prison, books, microwaves, uniforms, and navigating the social structures of a women’s penal camp. I mean, what is there to resist about that premise?

Piper Kerman helped smuggle money while head over heels in love with her handler, a woman who would later help stab her in the back. She got out of it, though, an...more
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Piper Kerman majored in theater at Smith College and graduated in the recession year of 1992. So the boho Bostonian stuck around Northampton, waiting tables and spinning her wheels.

Then she got involved with Nora Jansen, who suddenly acquired a lot of money, and before she knew it, Kerman was crisscrossing the globe with her drug-trafficking girlfriend and even, just once, running drug money hers...more
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“We were never friends. Not for a second. I loved you.” 42 likes
“We have a racially based justice system that overpunishes, fails to rehabilitate, and doesn't make us safer.” 27 likes
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