Review of Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – 5 stars.

Orange Is the New BlackOrange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like everyone else that comes across this book these days, the main reason I was attracted to it is that I love the TV series. However, it is important to note this book is not like the show. The TV series primary function is entertainment mainly in the form of humour. This book is a memoir, therefore like life, there is some humour but a fair whack of heartbreak and struggle too.

I really wish I had read the book before I watched the series as I did find little bits distracting, my mind drifting off on its own wondering such things as I wonder if Pop is the character Red in the tv series (I am pretty sure the answer is yes btw, feel free to let me know otherwise XD). This being said – the book is brilliant.

So, what’s it about. Piper Kerman, at twenty-something, gets bored of her plain white life ends up shacking up with a woman who works as a drug runner. Naively she underestimates the seriousness of this until a time she is asked to carry cash for the drugs trade. Not long after Piper gets out of the relationship (and the business) but as is usually the case her past catches up with her many years later when she is living a quiet comfortable life with her devoted boyfriend Larry. When she ends up with a custodial sentence her world becomes a very different place and Kerman recalls the stories of the women who help her see her prison time through.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Even more important for a memoir as you are committing to read someone’s life and if it’s droll you will soon lose interest. Kerman’s voice is very readable, here is a brief section which I think is a beauty:

“I never understood why laundry soup was the one free thing provided to us (other than toilet paper rations, which were passed out once a week, and the sanitary napkins and tampons stocked in the bathroom). Laundry soap was sold on commissary; some women would buy Tide and give away their eight free soap packets to others who had nothing. Why not soap to clean your body? Why not toothpaste? Somewhere within the monstrous bureaucracy of the Bureau of Prisons, this all made sense to someone.”

I learned a lot reading this book. For example; Kerman was sentenced on a US drug conspiracy charge so her sentence was based on the total amount of drugs involved in the operation, not her small role in it. A stark warning for anyone in the trade.

So, all in this is a pretty great book. Really it’s a story about staying strong and about appreciating the inner strengths of others too. Everyone has their own battles, strengths, weaknesses, secrets and successes. Kerman captures such a variety of those beautifully and writes about them with both empathy and respect.

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Published by Prisoners – Telling the true story?

Did you know that in Romania you could have your sentence reduced by publishing academic papers or a book (the Associated Press reported)?

However, unsurprisingly, the system has been reported to have been abused by inmates using ghost-writers. With it reported that 400 books were published by 188 detainees between 2013 and 2015. Justice Minister Raluca Pruna has proposed an ’emergency government ordinance’ to scrap the provision in the law that has allowed those such as jailed politicians and business persons to shorten their prison terms.

Bo Bennett - Truth

I’m not sure how I feel about this news story line. As usual, it seems that the rule has been abused by those that definitely knew better and have now ruined it for others. I actually think I would read a book by a prisoner. We have all probably read stories about the Kray twins or that of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, so if you had the chance would you take it further and read an account from the horses mouth so to speak? They say everyone has a story to tell and although I certainly am not interested in jailed politicians or bankers there are certainly other criminals whose stories I would read.

A recent story which has caught my eye in the papers just by how obscure it is, is that of the Hatton Garden Heist. There are bound to be some journalists out there who will make a book, maybe even a movie, out of it. The story of pensioners pulling off a heist (an apparently victimless crime) and then making a series of mistakes that lead them to be caught. It’s bound to sell. While the public are in up-roar about the pensioners getting fairly lenient sentences I wonder if the Romanian rule would be a benefit in this example. Let the pensioners keep their reduced sentence but ask them to produce a book about it, with any money made going to a charity, maybe a victims charity? Helping them pay their debt to society. Wouldn’t you like to know what was going through their minds, how they coordinated it all, how they thought they would escape but with a very sketchy escape plan? All in their own true voice. I think I would buy that book.

And as they say, the truth is often stranger than fiction…

Prison Music

 


 

Not a fictional post this week, but I would love to know people’s views. Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge LOGOTruth or fiction? Or does it depend on what it is and who is writing it? Would you read a prisoner’s story and would you trust them to tell the truth? Read other entries to the Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge HERE.