I just finished reading Orange is the New Black, the Memoir, by Piper Kerman. A couple of months ago, I got hooked on the show, and my curious mind wanted to read the book to see how similar the show was to Piper Kerman’s real life prison experience. I discovered that the book and the show are actually quite different. It was actually more difficult than I thought it was going to be to match the characters between the book and the show. It wasn’t as clear as I would have imagined it. But the most significant difference was Piper’s personality.
In the book, Piper’s personality did NOT have a narcissistic touch, like I wrote about in my post about Piper and her narcissism. In fact, Piper seemed remorseful during her entire journey. Her family was also portrayed in a different light, as they were more caring and less WASPy. Larry was also different. Larry and Piper’s love seemed light years more genuine in the book as it does on the show. In fact, their love is BEYOND envious in all the right ways.
In the book, Alex is Nora, the super hipster drug dealer who pulls Piper into the crazy heroin drug cartel that lands her in prison in the first place. But Nora does not serve her time with Piper. Piper only meets her former lover in the prison in Chicago, where they are summoned to testify against one of the drug cartel top dogs. They do not restart a relationship, but her anger with her is very raw and real.
The book is more about redemption as I feel the show is more about drama. It makes sense, considering the show was touched by Hollywood executives making sure the audience continuously tunes in, and the show continues to run. I LOVE the show for the drama factor, so I can’t complain. But there’s something about Piper Kerman that I love WAY more than Piper Chapman.
Piper Kerman could be me. She could be you, too. The memoir is about redemption and what it’s really like to lose your freedom behind prison walls. She describes her ability to not lose herself, to not break, in unfortunate circumstances. Her bravery is heroic, and her absence of judgment is so beautiful.
What really struck a chord with me was Piper’s concern with the thousands of women who are in prison for minor drug charges. I never really thought hard about my stance on prison reform, but I found myself siding a lot with Piper. It’s absolutely ridiculous hearing the statistics about the amount of women ripped from their families for minor drug charges. From Piper’s experience, it seems prison doesn’t do much but limit freedom and privileges. Yes, we must be punished for our crimes, but punishment is best served with redemption. Why not have more non-violent convicted felons doing community service? What will sitting in a prison for ten years without basic privileges do? Yes, it may cause them to not to commit the same crime so they don’t end up back in prison, but this a tactic using FEAR. More than half of women in prison are repeat offenders anyway. So clearly this tactic isn’t working. Instead, we can use LOVE, and have them lose themselves in the service of others. In my opinion, happier people generally won’t feel the compulsion to commit serious crimes.
Prison just doesn’t make sense to me, and it didn’t to Piper either. The lesson she learned in prison? That there needs to be serious changes in prison reform. Today, she serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association. It’s quite admirable and I loved her humbleness every step of the way. WAY WAY WAYYYYY different than the Piper Chapman I’m used to watching make bad decision after bad decision, slowly watching her let prison break her. Not Piper Kerman, who overcame adversity and came out on top. But I guess, good television is just that, good television. Of course I’ll continue watching…..