By Joanne Greenberg
This is a memoir of fifteen months spent in Danbury Federal Prison work camp. In the range of prisons, this was the highest (best); the others were downhill from there. Piper had been a drug dealer, left the drug game, and ten years later was arrested in connection with a sweep arrest of her former gang members. This woman brought to her experience the absolute best possible strengths – she was healthy, young, attractive but not beautiful, cultured but not pretentious, and flexible.
The book reads well. The reader is brought into Piper’s prison life as she goes through different levels of the experience, and the reader admires her ability to adjust to what are often uncomfortable but never horrific situations. Later, in jail, pending an appearance in court, things are not as manageable. The writing is smooth and interesting. I had some quibbles with her take on her fellow inmates. I don’t know of any group anywhere as comfort giving, stimulating, appreciative, or loving as how she describes her
fellow prisoners. The administration didn’t count at all. They appear and disappear in a mist with one or two exceptions that she managed to work around. The positive relations that she had with her fellow prisoners made me a little suspicious. I think she was using them to show how useless and ridiculous the modern American prison system is. I agree with her, but I can’t help feeling a little bit manipulated.
This book was highly recommended to me by a friend, and I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with her. I can see why the book would be very popular, because it strikes all the right notes. The prison system sucks, but ordinary people are the salt of the earth. As you already know, this is not the case. Most of the people I picked up when I was doing rescue just thought they were going someplace else. Occasionally, though, we got scuzzballs. I thing the police get bitter because of the scuzzball ratio and this influences their outlook.
The book can be purchased through Amazon.com as well as other outlets.
Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.
- The Half Message (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- The American prison system (ieet.org)
- Orange Is The New Black: Dramedy from Weeds’ Jenji Kohan gets July 11 release date (metro.co.uk)
- N.C. prisoners might lose legal advocates (newsobserver.com)
- Abusing Prisoners Decreases Public Safety –An interview with educator, author and former prisoner Shawn Griffith (syndaxvuzz.wordpress.com)
- Deaf athletes find success on the football field (fox5sandiego.com)
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman”
I listened to this on audiobook when I had a long trip in the car. What hit me were the Brooklyn accents and also how hard lives many women in prison had. Many were poor and just unlucky. Piper seemed a bit “spoiled” and “pampered” by the other inmates. They knew she was different and from a wealthy family.