Book Review: Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

“I knew that I would have to be brave. Not foolhardy, not in love with risk and danger, not making ridiculous exhibitions of myself to prove that I wasn't terrified--really genuinely brave. Brave enough to be quiet when quiet was called for, brave enough to observe before flinging myself into something, brave enough to not abandon my true self when someone else wanted to seduce or force me in a direction I didn't want to go, brave enough to stand my ground quietly.”

― Piper Kerman, Orange Is the New Black

American author Piper Kerman's 2010 memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, recounts her conviction for money laundering and drug trafficking and following year in a federal women's prison. The Netflix comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black was created based on the novel. The phrase "the new black" and the widespread belief that convicts in the US wear orange prison garb inspired the title.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

With her career, live-in boyfriend and loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the rebellious young woman who got mixed up with drug runners and delivered a suitcase of drug money to Europe over a decade ago. But when she least expects it, her reckless past catches up with her; convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at an infamous women's prison in Connecticut, Piper becomes inmate #11187-424. From her first strip search to her final release, she learns to navigate this strange world with its arbitrary rules and codes, its unpredictable, even dangerous relationships. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with tokens of generosity, hard truths and simple acts of acceptance. 

My reaction to the novel...

Since long before, my friend has been urging me to watch the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black. However, at the time, I was not a fan of such types of genres, so I did not bother to watch it. Then, the last time I was looking for a book to read, this one came highly recommended on Goodreads. Since I thought I recognized the title, I searched for the book, and sure enough, this is the one my friend suggested I watch on Netflix. I was quite interested since I had no idea that the series was based on this book, and just that it was also based on a true story.

Piper Kerman wasn't a bad person in my eyes. She posed no threat to others. She was only a young adult who made some really poor choices. Did she merit retribution for her misdeeds? Definitely. Nobody ever wants to spend time in prison. Your access to the outside world is entirely barred. That appears to be the worst penalty. Your only company besides the other prisoners is yourself. This appears to be the most severe penalty during imprisonment.

As a woman, I can well understand Piper's trepidation when she first visited the jail, therefore I was truly astounded at how perfectly her book depicted both prison life and life beyond. Nearly all of her emotions were palpable to me. I was surprised to realize that I, too, was terrified, and that my eyes were welling up with tears for her. Her experience was so bizarre, and it made me realize how brave she is. I particularly like how she chronicles her descent into criminal activity in detail before describing the realities of life in jail, where there are few options for free will.

Reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman taught me a lot. My perception of jails and prisoners has been radically altered by this book. You should read this book because it will undoubtedly alter the way you think. I became quite interested in them and was keen to learn more. Actually, these are situations that I haven't previously been concerned with or believed I would wish to tackle. I've always believed that if you commit a crime, you must do your sentence. Even while I still adhere to that line of reasoning, I am starting to realize that not every person deserves to be locked up and that many of them will actually change after serving their time.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5)

“Every human being makes mistakes and does things they’re not proud of. They can be everyday, or they can be catastrophic. And the unfortunate truth of being human is that we all have moments of indifference to other people’s suffering. To me, that’s the central thing that allows crime to happen: indifference to other people’s suffering. If you’re stealing from someone, if you’re hurting them physically, if you’re selling them a product that you know will hurt them—the thing that allows a person to do that is that they somehow convince themselves that that’s not relevant to them. We all do things that we’re not proud of, even though they might not have as terrible consequences.”

This is really true for me, and I believe it is for everyone. Humans are prone to making mistakes. We make errors because we are human and are not flawless. And virtually all of our errors make us seem bad. We do not take pride in them. The worst thing is that some individuals will keep doing it until they reach the degree of error that prevents them from making reparations because we sometimes think that what we did won't harm others, so we just let it go. However, some people are unaware that letting go of these mistakes without making reparations, as if nothing happened, can leave you exposed to a far worse mistake since you did not learn from the prior mistake you committed.

“I had learned to hasten the days by chasing the enjoyment in them, no matter how elusive. Some people on the outside look for what is amiss in every interaction, every relationship, and every meal; they are always trying to hang their mortality on improvement. It was incredibly liberating to instead tackle the trick of making each day fly more quickly."

Most of the time, we wish to speed up the days because we are anticipating an event that won't come for months. As a result, we continue to rush without stopping to appreciate the moment. Actually, I experience it occasionally. I want to speed up time, especially when I'm in a horrible position, but I realize that the more I rush, the slower time becomes, unlike when I'm having fun with my friends or other things in front of me that I can't get enough of. By that point, I had realized how rapidly time passes when you aren't paying attention to it constantly and when you are enjoying every moment of your day.


Disclaimer: Booksreadbyhannel is not a business website. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and based only on my own feelings and reactions while reading the books I featured here in my blog. My reviews reflect my utmost sincerity. I paid for the books I review here out of my own pocket. Books provided by authors and publishers are otherwise specified.