Orange Is the New Black

December 3, 2013 Memoir, non-fiction 21

6314763Title: Orange Is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Source: bought on Amazon
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Although this book certainly satisfied my desire to learn about different aspects of the human experience, I felt less connected to the author than I have when reading my favorite memoirs.

When Piper Kerman was young and stupid, she let an older girlfriend talk her into delivering a case of drug money. Although she was smart enough to get out of that relationship and went on to build a good life with a husband and a job, her past eventually caught up to her. This memoir describes the year she spent in a women’s prison as a result.

I read this book for a book club hosted by Rebecca at Love At First Book and Allison at The Book Wheel. It was a fascinating read and sparked lots of discussion, so I’d definitely recommend it to other book clubs. My favorite part of the book was learning about a part of life I’ll (hopefully) never experience. The people were very interesting and I felt like Piper was sympathetic towards the other inmates. I was impressed by the way she presented things that could be improved about the system without interrupting the narrative too much.

Personally, I’d recommend this individually less enthusiastically than I would recommend it as a book club read. Piper often describes the system as though she is an outsider looking in and as a result, I felt like I was watching the story go by instead of being immersed in it. It didn’t help that I didn’t really understand Piper. From day one, I didn’t understand why she let someone talking her into doing anything relating to drugs, so I immediately didn’t get her as a person. More time spent explaining that might have helped. I did appreciate that she seemed repentant after her prison stay and was very glad to hear that she’s currently involved in prison reform. Learning about the need for this reform and hearing the personal stories of the many women  Piper met were my favorite parts of this book. I think those bits made this a worthwhile read, especially for a book club that can take advantage of the thought-provoking nature of the story.

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21 Responses to “Orange Is the New Black”

  1. Geoff W

    An interesting review. So many people have just knocked the book off since it’s not like the TV show and I’ve only heard very few good reviews and even though yours is hesitant, I can tell you appreciated the questions the story brought up for you.

    • DoingDewey

      I haven’t actually seen the TV show yet, but I anticipate liking it less than the book. For me, the big appeal of the book was the fact that the author was sharing a real experience and it seems like reality has been distorted quite a bit in the TV show.

      • Geoff W

        It really has been distorted for the show, but it made sense on the show. My former boss talked about how she enjoyed the book because it discusses the racial inequality within the system (as well as the outsider status of the author).

  2. Lisa (Southern Girl Reads)

    I’ve heard great things about the TV show but honestly didn’t know it was from a book! I should have known that! I erally enjoyed your thoughtful remarks and now I’m even more curious about this book. Also, I wanted to thank you for stopping by Southern Girl REads yesterday and commenting on my review of Someone Else’s Love Story. I loved that book! Thanks again and have a wonderful bookish week!

    • DoingDewey

      I’m occasionally very surprised by the things I didn’t know came from books, most recently, Dr. Dolittle.I’m glad you enjoyed Someone Else’s Love Story as much as I did and I hope you have a wonderful week too 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks Pat 🙂 If you’re enjoying the TV show, it might be fun to compare and contrast, but if you’re just looking for a great memoir, there are other books I’d pick up first.

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, yeah, I suppose I can actually be certain I’ll never experience this part of society. Although one thing that I’m not sure I liked about this book is how much it felt like this was something that just happened to her. I don’t know that there’s something I think she should have written differently to correct that, but it almost felt like something that could have just happened to anybody. But maybe that was just me 🙂

  3. Juliana @ Epilogues

    I haven’t checked this one out yet, but I think I would have a similar reaction. I think I’m going to skip it. Thanks for reviewing! 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I know there are definitely other memoirs I’ve enjoyed more, largely because I’ve found them more relatable. Some Nerve and MWF Seeking BFF both come to mind. And from what I’ve heard, the TV show has made up lots of drama, so I’m not sure I’ll enjoy that very much either.

      • Juliana @ Epilogues

        Yeah, I’ve heard that the show isn’t very true to the book — or maybe it just kind of exaggerates it a bit, like you said. I’ll check those other titles though, thank you!

  4. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    Thank you for participating! And you’re right, it’s definitely more of a a birds-eye view of the prison system, rather than an on-the-ground experience but I think it was great for a book club read. Nice observation 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks for hosting! I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s thoughts on this one and it sparked lots of discussion, so I think it was great choice 🙂

  5. shayshortt

    I’m curious about both the book and the show, but have yet to commit to either. I’ve been seeing a lot of mixed reviews.

    • DoingDewey

      Having read the book, I think I’ll probably give a few episodes of the show a try, but I’ve read some mixed reviews as well. I also don’t like what I’ve heard about how it’s been changed compared to the book, so I’ll be surprised if it’s a show I stick with.

  6. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    I’ve heard of the TV show, but didn’t realize it was a book first (but of course I should have guessed that!) It’s great to read something with a new experience and I’m glad this was such a thought-provoking read. It almost makes me want to join a book club – maybe after I’ve gotten my TBR pile a little tamed. 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It does seem like an amazing number of movies and TV shows are based on books these days! I’ve really been enjoying this book club that Rebecca and Allison host, but I’d also be excited to find an offline book club to join in the future 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      That would actually make a lot of sense to me, because I really did feel like she was reporting on events rather than engaging in them a lot of the time. Interesting 🙂