Book Club Read: Orange is the New Black

July 8, 2014 Book Review, reviews 16

Book Club Read: Orange is the New BlackOrange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Published by Clarkson Potter, Crown Publishing Group on April 6th, 2010
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 298
Source: purchased


So y’all know I adore my book club with all my heart and think they are the coolest bunch of ladies in town, right? Well, now I have proof! Check out this picture of us vamping for the camera in our best orange {and black} for the July book club event. We are missing a handful of ladies but we still had an intense discussion about Orange is the New Black {both the book and the Netflix series.}

I didn’t get a picture of the food we had as I was starving and not even thinking about sharing with y’all. We decided that none of us wanted a taste of prison food so instead each of us brought a dish we would miss the most if we found ourselves in a prison cell. I have to tell you the absolute sweetest thing – my daughter Gabrielle {below on far left} brought chili. Y’all know how chili is my favorite food of all time and has been since I was about 8 years old. I’ve worried in the past that my kids would turn into chili-haters because I would make it all. the. time. Instead, chili was Gabrielle’s ‘would miss the most dish’ along with Red Lobster cheese biscuits. We also had fresh fruit and dip made by my oldest daughter {2nd from the left} which was inhaled  before we even started on the meal. A watermelon salad, fresh-from-the-garden veggie wraps and creamed corn rounded out our meal. Of course wine and beer were a necessity – can’t have book club without the wine!


If you’ve been under a rock {like me} and have not read this one or seen the series it’s about Piper Kerman and her year in a women’s prison in Connecticut. Piper found herself out of sorts after graduating from Smith College, sought adventure and ended up immersed in drug trafficking. She quickly realized that this was not the adventure she had been seeking, blew off all of her ties, moved to San Francisco and proceeded to get on with her life. Piper eventually met Larry, they moved in together and it seemed that happily ever after was attainable. Dun, dun, dun. . . .then came the knock on the door 5 years after Piper escaped the drug business. People had been arrested, names were being thrown around and although she was a pretty blonde/blue eyed white girl from an Ivy League school that did not prevent her from being charged and convicted. For a variety of reasons, it was another 5 years before she had to surrender to the Danbury Federal Prison. Orange is the New Black takes us behind the prison bars to what life is really like in a federal prison and to Piper’s realization of the consequences of her actions as a wayward adventure-seeker.

What made me finally recognize the indifferent cruelty of my own past wasn’t the constraints put on me by the U.S. government, nor the debt I had amassed for legal fees, nor the fact that I could not be with the man I loved. It was sitting and talking and working with and knowing the people who suffered because of what people like me had done.

Although there are sections that tend to drag just a little in the book {and the series}, we all felt Orange is the New Black should be required reading for all women. Why? Yes these women are criminals and yes they should do their time but, at the minimum, basic human needs must be met. Women in prison should be safe from attack by the guards and treated with a modicum of dignity. Did you know that with Bush’s War on Drugs we now have over 800,000 women in prison for minor drug crimes. There were accounts of women in federal prison who were serving years due to conviction as a non-violent protester while a guard convicted of raping an inmate served ONE MONTH. Tell me the rationale in that.

A lengthy term of community service working with addicts on the outside world would probably have driven the same truth home and been a hell of a lot more productive for the community. But our current criminal justice system has no provision for restorative justice, in which an offender confronts the damage they have done and tries to make it right to the people they have harmed. . .Instead, our system of “corrections” is about arm’s-length revenge and retribution, all day and all night. Then its overseers wonder why people leave prison more broken than when they went in.

I could go on and on about the atrocities of our social justice system. You’re here to know if the book is good or not; not to hear my rantings about social justice. Read it folks. There’s a bit of something for everyone in it. While I’ve never been a fan of a memoir, Orange is the New Black reads like a fiction novel. Piper is conversational, a bit sarcastic at times, and a character that, while you may not feel relatable, you will at least find yourself immersed in her story. Personally, I have not seen the show. Everyone else at book club raved about it and we compared notes about similarities/differences to the book. The biggest difference we found is that in the book, Larry, the boyfriend, is uber supportive of Piper throughout the entire ordeal. In the Netflix series, Larry and Piper have a much different relationship. The questions we used came straight from Piper’s website. There’s an excerpt available on her site as well.

I’d love to know if you’ve read the book or watched the series. What’s your opinion about our social justice system – is it ok? does it need work? or a complete overhaul? Share with me in the comments your thoughts and let’s get a discussion going!

16 Responses to “Book Club Read: Orange is the New Black”

    • Stacy

      thank you sweetheart! discussing social justice issues is so inspiring – maybe it’s cause we both have a heart for it and we’re both passionate about others. YOU make book club such an amazing experience for me. I love you sweet heart of mine!
      Stacy recently posted…Book Club Read: Orange is the New BlackMy Profile

  1. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    I enjoy the series, but have been on the fence about reading the book. I was thinking the show may have ruined it for me… but it sounds like the gals in your group who’ve seen the show still found the book very worthwhile! Thanks for sharing!
    Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf recently posted…Top Ten Blogging ConfessionsMy Profile

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      the book definitely has its merits. One other big difference between the show and the book is the show gives a back story to the supporting characters. In the book it is absolutely positively bad form to inquire of an inmate what she’s in for. . .but the explanation in the book makes total sense. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one if you get a chance to read it!
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Club Read: Orange is the New BlackMy Profile


    For me, there’s nothing better, when it’s a “stay indoors” kind of day and you’ve got a wonderful book open and you’re lost in world of excitement, thought and reflection.

  3. Cindy's Love of Books

    I first heard about the series last summer from a friend that said I should watch it and I did and I have to say I was hooked and watched the first season within the week. I just recently bought the book and hoping to get into that soon now that I have watched the second season.

    I think there is something seriously wrong with the system and if its anything like in Canada I am always baffled at what goes one…It makes no sense and its sad knowing people are sitting in jail for little things while the criminals get the shorter sentences. Doesn’t make sense at all.
    Cindy’s Love of Books recently posted…Book Blast/ Second Song CowboyMy Profile

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      That’s such an interesting point – I wonder how much different the Canadian criminal justice system is as opposed to the U.S. Do you have a lot of overcrowding in prisons in Canada? It would definitely be fascinating to compare the two countries.

      Watching the first season in a week sounds like what some of the ladies at book club were saying! I can’t believe I haven’t watched it yet! Hurry and read the book – I want to know what you think! And I’ll hurry and watch the show and let you know what I think about it! 🙂
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Club Read: Orange is the New BlackMy Profile

  4. Laurel-Rain Snow

    I read the book after watching Season I on Netflix…I am now immersed in Season II, and don’t even get me started on the inequities of the social justice system! I worked with children who had been abused by people who got very little time…and then there are those who committed minor drug infractions, pushed to the wall. And protestors? Give me a break! It is a moralistic and vicious system, and seems to be hardest on women.

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      that’s right! I knew you and I had something in common besides love of books – we’ve both worked with abused children. I was involved with CASA for almost 20 years and you’re right – it IS a “moralistic & vicious system” that is such an apt description.

      I really need to put the computer and books and grandson down so I can watch the first episode 😉
      Both of my girls have whizzed through the first season and are insistent I watch it. It was interesting to hear the differences between the show and the book. Do you find those differences to be distracting or make you prefer one or the other?
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Club Read: Orange is the New BlackMy Profile

  1. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman | A Good Stopping Point

    […] The Novel Life – “While I’ve never been a fan of a memoir, Orange is the New Black reads like a fiction novel. Piper is conversational, a bit sarcastic at times, and a character that, while you may not feel relatable, you will at least find yourself immersed in her story.” […]

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