I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz surrounding the new Netflix Original Series, Orange Is the New Black but did you know that it’s based on a true story & memoir?
I was sent a signed copy of this memoir from Netflix Canada last week and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. A young woman who craves adventure gets involved with the wrong crowd, gets thrown into the wrong adventure. She transports drug money once at the age of twenty-four for her lesbian lover, Nora, and at the age of thirty-four is convicted and sent to the federal correctional facility in Danbury for fifteen months. Piper Kerman has a great job and a wonderful fiancé named Larry. They’ve finally started a life together and now she must tell him about her past — a past that she isn’t proud of. A past that seemed like a little bump in the road, a silly mistake, something she never thought would turn into anything. Not only does she have to come clean to her fiancé, but his parents and her parents and every single person she ever lied to.
“I thought I understood risk. I considered my time abroad with Nora as a crash course on the realities of the world, how ugly things can get, and how important it is to stay true to yourself even in the midst of an adventure or experiment.” (Page 16)
What I found fascinating about this book is the honest look into what life in women’s prison can be like. Piper Kerman writes with delicacy, honesty, and intelligence. She shares her story and the stories of her prison mates with conviction (no pun), letting the reader in on the human truth that you can survive even the most horrid situation but you cannot do it alone and most importantly, you can’t lose yourself in the meantime. Piper Kerman has a seemingly “decent” time in prison, a time spent running, working, reading, writing letters, and learning whatever she needed to about “prison rules” to not get on anyone else’s nerves. Of course, prison life was no picnic and some of her stories will make your skin crawl.
What I like about Piper Kerman and her story is that not once did she paint herself as the victim, as someone to be pitied. She made a mistake many years ago but it was HER mistake and she should be punished for it. She felt worse about the pain it caused her family than the pain she caused herself and with that attitude she went through her fifteen months trying to gain something from the experience.
SO, why the insane buzz around this book? Why should we all care about one woman’s year in prison? I think there are a few reasons…
– To see what it is like to live behind bars.
– To understand that what happened to Piper Kerman could have happened to you or your sister or anyone you know. A silly kid making a stupid mistake and dealing with the karma of it all ten years later. Every indiscretion has a cost and Piper Kerman paid hers with class and determination.
– To get an idea of the freedoms we take for granted, such as eating good food, showering alone in a locked bathroom, and feeling drops of rain kiss your face.
“‘In Brooklyn there’s a little rec deck they take us up on, but it’s covered over, barbed wire and shit, and you don’t really see the sky…So we don’t mind the rain. We love it.’ And she put her head back again, face up, as close to the sky as it could get.” (A new inmate from a different prison talking to Piper, Page 96).
If you haven’t picked up your copy of Orange Is the New Black, I definitely think you should before you hit up the cottage this weekend. I plan on watching the series now that I’ve finished the book. I got goosebumps reading the book, I even shed a few tears, and after watching the show’s trailer I have a feeling that there are more tears on the way!
Happy reading, happy watching.