Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden

book of may: orange is the new black: my year in a women’s prison

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Orange is the New Black

After telling you all to watch this awesome Netflix series (which I seriously hope you have) I thought it would be fun to read the book that inspired it all. Piper Kerman (not Chapman) is a real life person who went to real life prison. Like her fictitious blonde friend, also for a drug charge.

Before we go any further, if you’ve seen the show I won’t be giving anything away, but if you haven’t and are planning on reading the book you may not want to read on.

Obviously real life events are fictionalized to make for more exciting and dramatic television & movies (except for Monster, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how shit went down). Anyway, there were some clear similarities between the book and the show, including, of course, the main character’s first name.

In the show Piper works in electrical after asking to work for the GED program. In the show the GED program was shut down because of mold in the classrooms. This aspect of the show was apparently 100% true, and 100% terrifying. Or is it just me who is irrationally appropriately afraid of mold?

Piper’s eventual roommate is a Caribbean woman whose attributes are morphed into the on-screen character seamlessly. As well as the lovely head of the kitchens Red, also known as Pop in the book. Pensatucky & Crazy Eyes are both based on real people, although the characters in the show seem to be built from multiple people Piper encounters in real life. The guard called Rotmanson in the book is perfectly portrayed as officer Mendez in the show.

In season two Piper travels by plane to Chicago, which apparently also happened in real life, and the plane ride in the show seems mostly accurate. The ending of the book does not coincide with the show, seeing as we’re all excitedly awaiting the release of season 3 in just twelve days. But that’s not the only thing that doesn’t quite align. As far as I can tell Alex Vause is, unfortunately, completely fictionalized. Her presence in the same prison as Piper from the beginning is fictional, as well as most things about her. The one grain of truth, as far as I can tell, is the fact that a former female lover got Piper mixed up in the drug world to begin with. Alex Vause’s moody good looks were, despairingly, never part of the equation.

Some other things that get lost from book to television show:

  • Piper’s dry humor
  • gay David
  • Larry’s fans in prison
  • Kids day
  • Piper’s loving and supportive family
  • Larry’s identity as a doting and secure fiancé

Though these things would certainly enhance the television show (in my humble opinion) I’m sure they were calculated changes. And who knows, maybe gay David is coming in season 3!

If you love the show I definitely recommend the book. It’s interesting to see where such an entertaining show gets its roots, but also to discuss in a surprisingly captivating fashion the short comings of the US prison system. That and the awesome tomato metaphor Piper uses in the final pages, and her expert use of the word ostensibly. Some seriously good writing.

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