Friday, April 25, 2014

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (audio)


Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
by Piper Kerman
narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Tantor Audio, 2012
11 hours and 14 minutes
source: purchased during audible's last BOGO sale

Publisher's summary:
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money 10 years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to 15 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 women 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, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. 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, Orange is the New Black 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.

My thoughts:
I'm not sure why it took me so long to figure out that the television series Orange is the New Black is based on a book, but once I did it was only a matter of time before the book made its way into to my hands or in this case, ears. When I discovered Cassandra Campbell was the narrator, it made my decision to listen a no-brainer.  I can't remember the last time eleven hours passed so quickly. For several days, I packed my schedule with tasks that could be accomplished while listening. My house hasn't been this clean in ages!

Orange is the New Black is a memoir about life inside the Danbury correctional facility as experienced by a thirty-something upper middle class, white, Smith College alumna while serving mandatory time for a drug conviction nearly ten years after the fact. {She delivered a suitcase containing drug money.} Most of us will never endure an experience like this, but are naturally curious.

Once you get past the circumstances of her crime (talk about bad choices!), it's easy to relate to Piper Kerman.  Out of place among the other inmates, she is able - after a few missteps - to learn the unwritten code of conduct that governs daily life. She discusses everyday challenges  - friendships among inmates, job assignments, prison food, recreation, visiting hours, loss of freedom, and personally humiliating security measures. I was especially impressed with small kindnesses shown by other inmates and their ingenuity in making what they needed out of what was available.

Kerman also shares her experience in dealing with "the system" and relating to guards and councilors.  Most appalling to me was the utterly ineffective discharge planning (can't think of the proper term, so falling back on my healthcare vocabulary here).  The inmates desperately needed help with the basics of finding shelter and employment, but that type of training was not to be found in the programs which were offered.

About the series:
I've watched three episodes so far this week. At just under an hour, they're perfect for a brisk walk on the treadmill. The series seems to follow the book fairly closely, but has been sensationalized for television. I'm enjoying the addition of other inmates' backstories, which were not addressed in the book.

Bottom line: 
This book will more than satisfy any curiosity you have about life behind bars. Give it a try!

My rating:



27 comments:

  1. I've had this in print for a while and need to read it. I'm sure I'll like it - it's my kind of book.

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    1. Kathy - This is definitely your kind of book :)

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  2. I've been curious about this book. Thanks for your great review.

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    1. Pat - This is the best memoir I've read in a while.

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  3. This has been kicking around the edge of my TBR since I heard about that the TV series was based on a book. Looks like I need to get reading and watching!

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    1. Katherine P - Guess we're alike in the respect... a TV series based on a book sends us straight to the bookstore!

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  4. I've got to get this one out from the library again. I got sidetracked last time I was listening to it and it expired. What I did listen to I liked and of course anything narrated by Cassandra Campbell is sure to be good. I've got the series on Netflix but I haven't watched an episode yet. I should probably listen to the book first.

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    1. Darlene - Yes, definitely listen to book first. Cassandra Campbell did an excellent job, as always.

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  5. Yeah, this is definitely something on my to-do list, once I've satisfied my obsession over other TV series. Here is the crazy thing though. I have always loved Cassandra Campbell...she is a favorite of mine. But I've been listening to a very detailed non-fiction audio about the Iron Curtain (Europe under communism after WWII) and is narrated by her, and she is annoying the living hell out of me. Incorrect pronunciations would be one issue, but her smooth voice doesn't seem to mesh with Stalinism! Ha! I just had to add that two cents! I hope I can go back to loving her again...

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    1. Sandy - I saw you mention this book and added it to my wish list. Somehow Campbell's voice just doesn't seem suited to that topic, at least in my mind. I haven't come across many mis-cast audiobooks, but this sure seems like a prime example. Hope you can move past it and go back to enjoying her excellent narrations! I'll go delete it from my audible wish list now...

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  6. I saw the first few episodes on Netflix and really enjoyed them. I'd like to listen to it as well.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

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    1. Catherine - I love this type of memoir on audio. A good narration really brings it to life!

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  7. I love the show. After reading this post, I placed the audiobook on hold. :-)

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    1. Vasilly - I'm so glad... hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  8. This is very timely - the author is going to be at Moth event I am attending in May and I wanted to read her book before then. I think I will listen to it thanks to your review!

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    1. Colleen - This is an excellent audio production... I think you'll really enjoy it!

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  9. Thanks for your excellent review, now I know what the buzz is all about. It does sound like a captivating book. I haven't seen the series, don't see it on any of the channels I subscribe to. Sounds like a good material for a full length feature movie. Recently I've read the amazing book A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, have you read it? It's also about imprisonment, but not in a U.S. prison but by kidnappers in Somalia. I think it's absolutely great movie material.

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    1. Arti - It's really a fascinating book... so different from anything I'll ever experience (thankfully). I've not read A House in the Sky, but it sounds like something I'd enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  10. This book has been on my TBR list forever - I just moved it up higher.

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    1. Sarah - It's really a good book... so far removed from my life, and so interesting. Hope you like it, too!

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  11. I've got to read this one and start watching the series. I have it in my Netflix queue but just haven't gotten around to it and everyone is telling me about it. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

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    1. Kathleen - It seems like I rarely watch anything on TV these days, it's always Netflix! Hope you get to this soon.

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  12. I just started listening to this yesterday, after finally getting a crack at the audio version at the library. My daughters both thought the series great, and so I watched it. Talk about intense--my heart was pounding after each episode. I've heard the next season airs in early June.

    Glad you loved the audio book--I will be inventing all sorts of errands so that I can listen to it more.

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    1. JaneGS - My daughters loved the series, and convinced me to try it.. One of these days, I may be able to walk for two episodes, lol! I think Cassandra Campbell does an excellent job narrating the audiobook... you may be looking for excuses to keep listening, too ;-)

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  13. I had a similar reaction to this one. It's made me even more excited for season two to start this summer!

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    1. Melissa - That should give me plenty of time to get through season one!

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  14. Until I read this I didn't know the show was based on a book either!

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