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Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

Orange Is the New Black - Piper Kerman ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK was a book I read on a whim, found amongst my shelves from some long ago thrift store trip I assume. It’s a prison memoir about a long ago crime, a year in federal prison, books, microwaves, uniforms, and navigating the social structures of a women’s penal camp. I mean, what is there to resist about that premise?Piper Kerman helped smuggle money while head over heels in love with her handler, a woman who would later help stab her in the back. She got out of it, though, and met the man of her dreams and got a wonderful job. And suddenly the police find her years later. A trial takes years to happen and then suddenly wham, she’s sentenced to prison, another several years in the waiting.I have never been to prison except for playing softball for two years at a field right next to the county jail (“Officer Warren, please report to Cell Block B immediately”). With Ms. Kerman’s account of prison life, from mail to strip searches to searching for meaning, I felt like – for a few hours – that I was there, which leads me to my mail complaint about the book…It’s prison. Ms. Kerman spends a good portion of the book whining about the treatment she receives behind bars, from having to be strip searched before and after seeing her fiancée once a week, to the hoopla over Martha Stewart possibly going to the same prison as her. If you are in prison, no matter how outdated, it is because you are serving a punishment. Sure, drug offenses on the whole are outdated and the war against… Okay, I am not going to make this a political thing. If you want my political views, head over to Megan’s Political Views dot Com and see that such a website does not exist because I know better than to mix book reviews and socialist liberal themes. (But seriously, her sentence was really silly.)Back to the point. If you are in prison, it’s supposed to be a punishment. Federal prison is a resort compared to county lockup. I know a recovering addict who spent three months locked in a rural county jail sleeping on a mattress on the floor with no outdoor recreation, no access to mental services, no access to NA meetings, having no access to friends and family, all while desperately trying to get clean. It could be worse.Ms. Kerman’s style of writing is very to the point and blunt. Don’t go into this expecting ravishing prose that will sweep you off your feet. But what I really enjoyed about this one was the story and the tales of the relationships Ms. Kerman formed with those around her, and that was what really swayed my writing. Stylistically, this book would warrant a three star rating, but based on the merit of her story and how it compelled me onward to read it in one sitting, this one gets a four.VERDICT: Although the author uses plenty of time to complain about what happened, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is a fascinating look into America’s prison system – complete with plenty of Martha Stewart mentions.