Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Released: April 6th, 2010
Publisher: Speigel & Grau
Series: NA
Star Rating: 4 out of 5
Page Amount: 298
Age Group: Adult

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 before. 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 of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

I'm not going to lie, the only reason I would have ever picked up this book in the first place was that I watched the Netflix original series show and had really enjoyed it. If you are one of those people who are going to be picking up this book because you have enjoyed the Netflix adaptation, I feel as though it is necessary to tell you that the book and the show are, in more ways than one, extremely different. They have the same base storyline - a seemingly good woman going to jail for a crime that she had committed ten years prior to when the story is taking place - but that's about where the similarities stop. Some of the characters have the same names and the same base story lines, but the show definitely took liberties with the storyline. The Netflix show is more, exciting I guess you could say.

I am not a memoir person. I'm sure you could have guessed that just by looking at the previous books that I have reviewed before. I'm having a little bit of difficultly trying to explain what exactly it is I felt about this book, because it's not the type of material I usually read. 

After saying that, while I was reading the book, a lot of the time I didn't feel like I was reading a memoir. I have this preconceived idea that memoirs are going to be about the author's tragic life and they are just trying to make the readers feel bad for them, and that is definitely not how I felt reading this book. To be completely honest, this could have been a fiction story based on the way that Kerman wrote it. I enjoyed it written that way - I didn't feel like she wrote it just to have this audience of people who feel bad for what happened to her. I could tell from the way Kerman wrote that she just wanted to tell her story with no strings attached. She just wanted to have her experience of being in a women's prison to be told.

Considering that this book takes place over an entire year of somebody's life - in prison nonetheless - the book is considerably short, and some parts were skimmed over and I wish that those parts of the story could have been explored more than they were. Some parts of the story I feel like Kerman just tried to rush through to get to the bigger parts of the story. The majority of the book take place before she enters prison and in the process of her getting out. I wish her experience in Danbury was explored a little more than they were.

I loved that a lot of the people in this book were really explored and that Kerman wasn't the main focus of this book the entire time. It was refreshing to hear a little bit of another person's story and not just about Kerman. I wish Nora's character was explored a little more, but it is understandable that it wasn't to protect her privacy.

Orange is the New Black was a very enjoyable memoir, especially for my first one. If it hadn't started watching the Netflix series (I absolutely CANNOT wait until June 6 for season 2 to premier) I don't think I would have ever picked this book up. I recommend it to fans of the show and to anybody who enjoys reading memoirs.