Skip to main content
PBS logo
 
 

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

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Orange Is the New Black My Year in a Women's Prison
Author: Piper Kerman
The Market's bargain prices are even better for Paperbackswap club members!
Retail Price: $16.00
Buy New (Paperback): $12.79 (save 20%) or
Become a PBS member and pay $8.89+1 PBS book credit Help icon(save 44%)
ISBN-13: 9780385523394
ISBN-10: 0385523394
Publication Date: 2/15/2011
Pages: 336
Rating:
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 176

3.8 stars, based on 176 ratings
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

28 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

Chocoholic avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
This is an interesting memoir by Piper Kerman, a graduate from prestigious Smith College, who finds herself hanging with the wrong crowd and ultimately commits a minor drug-related offense that she calls "the stupidest, most immoral thing" she has ever done. Several years later, she re-invents herself and falls in love with a great man, only to find out that the justice system has caught up with her and she is sentenced to spend time in a minimum security institution. This memoir recounts the events leading up to her sentencing and her time in a variety of penal institutions and details the way of life behind bars, the people she got to know, and the ways in which she keeps herself occupied during her time. Kerman notes that she is one of the privileged few behind bars that has a support system on the outside and points out the differences in her life versus the larger prison populace who may not have the same luxuries that she enjoyed. I found this to be an informative and fascinating look at life on the inside of the US federal prison system.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 39 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
I was very interested in the real life description of federal prison for women. The author did a good job of portraying sympathetic characters for those she made friends with in the correctional facilities she stayed in. She endured a real punishment, though, don't mistake it. She did not have her freedom, and I feel she felt that keenly. In a way, I believe the author even learned a life lesson, as she met a sampling of real women who were negatively impacted by the drug trade that the author took part of and was finally incarcerated for.

I read quite a few negative reviews of this book before I read it. Mostly reviewers were saying that the author didn't really suffer, as she had an amazing support system of family and friends who visited her, financial support, and a job waiting for her when she got out.

I think she did a fairly superior job of portraying a wide range of feelings and essentially laid bare her nervousness, fear, trepidation, humor, anger, happiness, and loneliness. She did a fine job on this book.
TakingTime avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 1072 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This book gave a very good description of a woman's prison camp - not a jail or a prison, but a prison camp. There are definate differences between the three. Although all three lean toward rules and regulations, a prison camp allows more freedoms and opportunities than the other two. Kerman does give glimpes of life in a jail and a second hand account of being locked in a prison, but her experience was almost exclusively in the prison camp. There are guards in all three places for a variety of reasons, not all of which is for the profit, comfort, or rehabilitation of the prisoner. Kerman spoke about this type of prison guard, although her experience was pretty run of the mill because she was there to do her time, and not to create problems. Kerman was repaying her debt to society years after the fact, and at 35 yrs old was petrified to be incarcerated. Due to the helping hand of many of the people she profiles in her book, she adjusted well to life in the camp. Her sentence - relatively short in comparison to those she became close to - went by without a lot of problems until weeks before her "out" date, when she got the shocking full effect of time in a large city jail. Kerman had a lot of friends, family and a fiance' who helped to keep her sane during her incarceration, although the loss of a loved one brought out the realism of her situation. Written in an open, honest way, Kerman gives the details of her incarceration in Danbury Connecticut's woman's federal correction facility during her 15 month imprisonment.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book was not at all what I expected. Piper does NOT portray herself as a victim or martyr, but as a woman among women doing time. I found it very interesting and heartwarming. Well done!
paisleywings avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 232 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was a wonderful book (memoir) of Piper Kerman's 15 months in a womens prison. It was both fascinating and heartfelt, and very informative. Makes you want to be a good girl for the rest of your life.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 191 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really can't say that I liked this book. It seemed awfully juvenile, like it was written by a teenager. Not much fleshing out of the characters and it just seemed dull and mundane to me. Maybe I just wasen't in the mood at this time, to read this book. I'm sure others will have a different take on it.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Given the hype surrounding this book, I could only give it 3 stars. It was interesting to learn what it was like in prison, but did not a real compelling plot line. From what I understand, the HBO series sensationalizes the book significantly.
TakingTime avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 1072 more book reviews
This book gave a very good description of a woman's prison camp - not a jail or a prison, but a prison camp. There are definate differences between the three. Although all three lean toward rules and regulations, a prison camp allows more freedoms and opportunities than the other two. Kerman does give glimpes of life in a jail and a second hand account of being locked in a prison, but her experience was almost exclusively in the prison camp. There are guards in all three places for a variety of reasons, not all of which is for the profit, comfort, or rehabilitation of the prisoner. Kerman spoke about this type of prison guard, although her experience was pretty run of the mill because she was there to do her time, and not to create problems. Kerman was repaying her debt to society years after the fact, and at 35 yrs old was petrified to be incarcerated. Due to the helping hand of many of the people she profiles in her book, she adjusted well to life in the camp. Her sentence - relatively short in comparison to those she became close to - went by without a lot of problems until weeks before her "out" date, when she got the shocking full effect of time in a large city jail. Kerman had a lot of friends, family and a fiance' who helped to keep her sane during her incarceration, although the loss of a loved one brought out the realism of her situation. Written in an open, honest way, Kerman gives the details of her incarceration in Danbury Connecticut's woman's federal correction facility during her 15 month imprisonment. 3 1/2 stars
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 73 more book reviews
This was a good book. The problem is that I started watching the show before I read the book which is never a good idea for me. When I watch first then the characters are already defined in my head and in reality the characters, including Piper, don't match up between the two mediums. What I definitely got from the book is a better sense of how flawed our prison system is and how much it fails at reforming the people who are sent there. I think about how when I fill out a job app and I'm asked if I have ever been convicted of a crime I can answer no. I can only assume that answering yes will quickly end any chance of being considered for hire. And if you can't get a job how can you be expected to do better the second time around...
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on
Don't read it if you have seen the Netflix Original Series... Soooo boring. Like really, really boring.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on
Good insight and perspective into life in prison. A quick read.
roach808 avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 143 more book reviews
This has been on my shelf before the show was probably even in the works, so it gives you some idea how many books are on my shelf if I (for the most part) read them in order!

It was about what I expected and still thoroughly enjoyable (enjoyable meaning a rare look into a world you often don't see the full story of).

Worth it for women and men alike.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on
I enjoyed reading Piper Kerman's memoir of her time in federal prison. Her stories about life in prison are extremely interesting and give great insight to what life is like on the inside. She definitely had an easier time than many of her other inmates due to her support network of friends and acquaintances.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 70 more book reviews
I can't say enough good about this book. Personally, I think every teenaged girl should read this book so they can understand that sometimes a decision you may make in haste can have far-reaching consequences. I truly could not put this book down and was sorry when it ended.
bjjudya avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 37 more book reviews
Interesting. Like the book and know I wouldn't want to go to prison.
buzzby avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 6062 more book reviews
Good writing, not very shocking (except for the fact that she went to prison 7 years after she was convicted, for obscure reasons.
LaurieS avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 504 more book reviews
I'm reviewing the unabridged audiobook.

Imagine doing something criminally dumb as an impetuous twenty-something, getting away with it and having it come back to haunt you just when youve got it all together? Thats what happened to Piper Kerman.

Piper was a young, adventurous college graduate who fell into a lesbian affair with a slightly older woman who was making her money in the drug trade. Piper quickly realized she was in over her head after Nora asks her to do a job. She does it but breaks it off with Nora soon after. Several years later she has fallen deeply in love with a great guy named Larry and has a respectable job. And thats when the FBI come knocking.

The title, Orange is the New Black, makes it sound like some sort of chick lit novel which it isnt. This is Pipers firsthand account of her relatively short (a little over a year) stay in a minimum security prison. It was nothing at all what I was expecting when I picked up this audio. Basically it is clean (with some F-bombs thrown in) and trauma-free; there one almost scuffle and a little pee-pee episode but thats about as graphic as it gets. Clearly Ive watched too many scared straight documentaries and sleazy horror films because I was expecting something much rougher. She mentions a few things that were slightly disturbing but they always happen around her, never directly to her. Maybe she was just lucky or maybe she blocked out the ugly stuff? Ill never know but do have to wonder. Though Pipers freedom is gone, she never seems in real danger and is almost always surrounded by friendly, nice people who help each other out. The food and surroundings are less than ideal but she gets in killer shape, reads books, has loads of visitors and learns some handyman skills. Not too shabby, if its all true.

There are a lot of people that come in and out of Pipers life during her stay and I would've liked to get to know at least a few of them on a deeper level (especially Delicious) but instead Piper focuses more on the details and drudgery of her day to day life inside the prison and her minor epiphanies and thoughts. But what the hell, it is her book. It wasn't boring; dont get me wrong, it just could have been so much better. I never felt an emotional connection to Piper or the many women in the story which is a shame. She mentions time and again how easy she has it on the outside compared to these women (and she does) and I had to wonder how she was able to fit in so seamlessly. Almost everyone seemed to like her and it didnt seem realistic that she wouldnt have more of a struggle considering the culture/personality clash.

I did like the fact that Piper wasn't a poor me type. If she had been this book would've been a DNF early on. But she knows she screwed up and that its no ones fault but her own. She has to pay the consequences leaving behind her supportive family, friends and fiance and doesn't whine about her situation; instead she makes the best of it and takes notes of many of the injustices inside the prison system.

Narrator Cassandra Campbell reads capably. I liked the sound of her voice which was soothing and likable as Piper and many of the other young women but when shes voicing some of the gruffer and/or older folks, or those with accents, she doesn't always fully succeed. Many of them sound too young or too sweet and not at all like the rough and tumble people many of them surely were. But I can live with that because mainly this is Pipers story.

If youre at all interested in life inside a minimum security prison you should check this out. The routines, the character interaction and the complex relationships that develop inside the prison were fascinating and parts of it were even funny. I only wish Piper (or perhaps a co-author) had been able to imbue her recollection with the emotion that would have made it memorable.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 43 more book reviews
Great book, accurate and compelling story of a woman serving a 15 month prison sentence. Intersting look inside the prison system and the people working there and the people incarcerated there too.
sunshine0716 avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 3 more book reviews
Overall a good read...can be hard to follow at times. A lot different than the show's depiction.
Grazona avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 119 more book reviews
I was generally disappointed in this book. It had a lot of potential but didn't follow through. I was expecting a funny, touching memoir about the author's jail time. Instead it was whiny and simple. The language she uses is basic and she never makes me feel much for her or her fellow inmates. It felt like fiction and not something she had actually experienced. I don't recommend this book for anyone who likes a more literary or intellectual book. There is some interesting information in there so if you're wanting a quick simple read then this is for you.
StrawberryOES avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 86 more book reviews
This was a real eye-opener......I loved the TV series so decided to read the book. I had no idea being in Federal prison was such a hard thing to bear. We always hear how easy it is for prison folks these days, but I guess not. I did once visit someone in the Los Angeles County Jail (husband,and soon to be ex) and said I would never go into one again....
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 4 more book reviews
The TV series is much better.
littlegirl avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 37 more book reviews
Orange is the New Black was a really interesting look and perspective into the American criminal justice system. While I've had a vague familiarity with the concept of "mandatory minimum sentences," this book really demonstrated the effect that those laws have and how they lead to recidivism, homelessness, and a host of other social problems once prisoners are released.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 10 more book reviews
Very enjoyable read. Even if you've watched the tv show, the show is not en exact replica of the book. You'll still enjoy reading the 'real thing.'
loregess avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 175 more book reviews
For a while now I've been feeling like the only person on the planet that has not seen the show, so I thought I should start off with the book (because the book is usually 90% always better than the the TV show or movie adaptation).

I enjoyed Kerman's approach in telling her story. It wasn't in a voice to be pitied, it was just a straight up account of her experiences -- especially at her surprise of treatment among the classes (even behind bars). Kerman didn't live a privileged life behind bars, but her nice blonde hair and college education got her farther than most. I am sure that Kerman's incarceration was a lot more hellish than it seems in print, but it is the descriptions of her fellow inmates that took me aback. What really shocks me is how random the judicial system seems to be - the punishments,for the most part, do not fit the crimes. Those that committed serious offenses have more lenient sentences than those that don't seem like big deals at all. Go figure. At any rate, I'm not as interested in Kerman as I am in her fellow inmates and her fiancee, so I hope my favorite characters in the book play major roles in the show.
AZmom875 avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 624 more book reviews
I love non fiction and it happened to me, stuff. My year as... a blank. So this book has been on my Dusty TBR pile for some time. Then I saw about 3 episodes of the Netflix show of the same title, somewhat based on this book.

If you are a huge fan of the show, you do know that it has graphic nudity, but it does a great job of telling some of the other inmates stories. So the writing on the show is good. Some of it does line up with the book. Crazy eyes makes a very small appearance in this book.

This book was obviously popular before the Netflix Show. I think that there are many reason why this book was so well received and later turned into a show. Piper is honest, and repentant, and forgiving, and scared. I think the book is different from the show, but equally as good.

If you are looking for scintillating T and A lesbian love stories, just stick to the show. The book covers more about the lives of hopeless women, and a system that is very flawed, not just corrupt, but flawed. She doesnt get preachy, but she does really see how much her choices have an effect on others.
sierrastar avatar reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 81 more book reviews
I loved loved loved this book and could not put it down. It was a very good read and I recommend it to anyone interested in what goes on behind the doors in a womans prison. The story of a woman who had to serve a year sentence. It was well written by the author.
reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison on + 4 more book reviews
The TV series is much better.