Why you should both Watch and Read Orange is the New Black: Part 2

Thea Baldwin

During my two seasons of binge watching the original series Orange is the New Black, produced by Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds), I was constantly filled with a clusterfuck of anger, pity, and laughter throughout the show.  And like a preteen chasing drama, I was hungry for more. I discovered that the series was based off a book, also titled Orange is the New Black, written by Piper Kerman (real-life Piper). It was nice to have both the real account of Piper’s story alongside with the fictional story. Both the book and the TV show blur the line between yourself and prison inmates and shows that people in prison are often times normal, decent people who made one bad decision and drew a bad hand.  Both are also effective in illuminating how terrible government run programs can be if ignored. If you have any doubts on starting either one, or both, here is my attempt to convince you to give them a chance.

As many show-watchers know, Piper Chapman can be a very frustrating character and often causes me to yell WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING at the TV in response to her dumb decisions. So reading the book was a pleasant change. Not only did I realize that Piper is actually a real person, I realized she is actually a decent, thoughtful and strong person. Unlike the show, the book is entirely an inward struggle of her learning the culture of prison, while also dealing with the constant frustrations of a poorly run system. Although the show also covers problems inmates deal with, there is something chilling about reading an actual account of fuckups by COs, administrators and just the government in general. 

Despite the frustrations with the system, it is inspiring to see someone actively try to make themselves better in a bad situation. Anyone in her situation could have blamed everyone except themselves, and held on to their anger and sadness. Piper Kerman stayed zen-like calm most of the time and took responsibility for her own life.  The book highlights her creating new relationships and cherishing her old ones. She had a steadfast focus on improving her body as well as her mind, and always seemed to practice gratefulness to every act of kindness she received, and in turn tried to give out as many acts of kindnesses to others.

The book is very compelling, well written, and contains no slow chapters that you have to “get through.”  It is uplifting, interesting, yet bothersome. Bonus: it’s a quick read! I finished it in about 3-4 days.

Book Synopsis: Piper Chapman/Kerman participated in a drug operation with her girlfriend in her early twenties. She eventually got scared, ended things with her girlfriend and went home.  She put the past behind her and 10 years later she’s in a happy relationship and enjoying her career. Unfortunately her past comes back to haunt her, and she goes on trial for a crime she committed 10 years ago. She is sent to prison to serve a 13 month sentence. Being a white, educated, middle-class woman she stands out among many of the inmates and faces a lot of challenges while trying to carve a place for herself in the community. Through out her journey she meets an array of woman who all have their own interesting pasts.

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