Book Banter: Orange is the New Black

Title: Orange is the New Black6314763
Author: Piper Kerman
Genre: Memoir
Length: 298 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Piper Kerman is an unlikely criminal. She’s a Smith College graduate. She has a well to do boyfriend. A promising career. And one small mistake that occurred about ten years ago: she delivered a suitcase of drug money.

Banter Points: The title originally caught my eye because it is a Netflix original series. I figured I was getting the fictional book that the story was based on. I had no idea that this was a memoir. By the time I connected the dots, I was intrigued. I did have to wonder if Kerman suffered from a similar issue as James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces. Kerman’s time in prison didn’t completely seem like the hardship that prison should be, even considering that she was far removed from the life that she had been living when she committed the crime.

She never denies it in the book. She owns up to it, and analyzes the reason why she did it. Probably one of the more intriguing concepts is that prison showed her the side of society that impacted by drugs and what it does to them. She learned because of that interaction, but felt that the cost to the state was too high. The housing costs for a prisoner are a modest annual salary for most Americans. Kerman never really comes out and says that the prison system needs some serious evaluation, but she points out the illogical situations and lack of reason when she sees it.

I also found it curious that Netflix has the series labelled as a comedy. It almost makes me wonder what the heck happened in the translation. While the book wasn’t doom and gloom, nor did it have a serious serving of scary, it wasn’t laugh out loud funny either.

Bummer Points: Kerman probably could have been stronger in speaking out against some of the prison systems issues and deliberately choose not to. While I can appreciate that from a legal stand point (after all, prisons have lawyers too, and not just for persecuting criminals), it really weakened some of the effect I believe she was trying to bring out in the memoir. The central theme, I felt, came across as “Prison isn’t as bad as you think.” I really hope that wasn’t the intended message.

Stacie’s Recommendation: This probably was a bad book selection for me. I’m not a huge fan of memoirs, and was heavily affected in my thinking by the revelations around Frey’s “memoir” when it was first published. I’m not unhappy with the time I spent reading the book, but I would have skipped it if I had known it was a memoir too. End result: Mixed reaction. It was a solid middle of the road for me.

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