Sunday, September 28, 2014

Piper Kerman - Orange is the New Black

With her career, live-in boyfriend and loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the rebellious young woman who got mixed up with drug runners and delivered a suitcase of drug money to Europe over a decade ago. But when she least expects it, her reckless past catches up with her; convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at an infamous women's prison in Connecticut, Piper becomes inmate #11187-424. From her first strip search to her final release, she learns to navigate this strange world with its arbitrary rules and codes, its unpredictable, even dangerous relationships. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with tokens of generosity, hard truths and simple acts of acceptance.

Comment: I got this book because it is the book of the month at one of the book clubs I follow on line and I was curious to see how it would be like, considering the theme.

This is a memoir book about Piper Kerman's experience in prison. Although everyone can say if they enjoyed the tale, the fact is, this was something that happened to her and the way things are told, says that. This isn't a romance meant to make us sympathetic and wishing for a HEA, although we always build up an opinion based on what we read, so...
This book shows Piper's actions that led her to be in prison and how she lived there until the end of her sentence.

I liked the book. I think it can be easy to judge when most of us readers haven't had the same experience so can we really argue saying she shouldn't have done this or that while in prison? We can't compare it to anything else, because prison isn't like any other place on earth. The rules of society might mesh but the whole concept follows their own rules.

What we can judge because we are humans are the things Piper did which got her in there in the first place. Justice is slow, so I wasn't really surprised it took so much time for her to be sentenced, but what she did was wrong. It's something so unlikely what any reasonable person should do that I can't find sympathy towards her, not totally. Sure, I wanted her to do well in prison and not having a hard life. But I agree the issues of imprisonment and how the system deals with the different kinds of convicts eaves a lot to be desired.

Throughout the book, with more emphasis towards the end, Piper discusses the issues in how prison affects society and economy and how in the end it's not always the best solution for those who don't have a good support system to go back to. In a way I agree, prison should be a place where the one in there should think and work to accept the wrongness of one's actions and how not to do it again. But as with most punishments, it doesn't always reach the goals of redemption. According to Piper's descriptions and experience, the state of mind in which someone lives  the prison time isn't the same for all and can heavily influence the outcome of the whole thing. An example is Piper herself, the took the punishment for what it meant and she learned her lesson but had family to help. Many prisoners don't.

The book is divided into chapters and all focus on some part of prison life, in a more general continuous line, meaning we follow Piper's state of mind from when she entered until she is told she is free. I liked all chapters and how she had to deal with surprises an how there's this whole hierarchy to understand. Still, I got the feeling things weren't that radical because she was in a minimal security facility. I wonder what happens behind the dangerous prisons doors and how much mind control one has to bear to endure years in it.

My favorite thing was how Piper learned the tricks to have a peaceful existence and which traps to avoid. It's tricky and like she said, she had to be in control in there.
Of course, we can point out that her race and back up economic situation helped her to be successful, but I want to think it was also due to her own feelings of doing the right thing after bad choices. It's wrong to have anything to do with drugs but she was sorry and paid her due. In a way, that was redemption to her so all the moments she describes in the book are one step closer to be a better person in the future.
Realistically speaking, obviously this doesn't happen to all prisoners and the good results numbers are probably low.

In the end I liked the story, I enjoyed reading and didn't feel overwhelmed with the lesson learning vibe some readers felt this was preaching to. To me, this was a good story, interesting scenes from life in prison and the relationships those in there forge and how that is the world to live for.
Of course it isn't perfect, personally didn't like much the way the story ended, I'd have liked something from Piper's reconnection with those she shared prison somehow, even if just to say she wrote them or something. Still, lives come and go in prison...
For me, this story worked and was enjoyable, entertaining and morally balanced.
Grade: 8/10

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