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Orange Is the New Black
Cover of Orange Is the New Black
Orange Is the New Black
My Year in a Women's Prison
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NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES
  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear "down the rabbit hole" of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there.

    Praise for Orange Is the New Black

    "Fascinating . . . The true subject of this unforgettable book is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind."People (four stars)

    "I loved this book. It's a story rich with humor, pathos, and redemption. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. I will never forget it."—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

    "This book is impossible to put down because [Kerman] could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter."Los Angeles Times

    "Moving . . . transcends the memoir genre's usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you."USA Today

    "It's a compelling awakening, and a harrowing one—both for the reader and for Kerman."—Newsweek.com

    Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.
  • NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES
  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear "down the rabbit hole" of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there.

    Praise for Orange Is the New Black

    "Fascinating . . . The true subject of this unforgettable book is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind."People (four stars)

    "I loved this book. It's a story rich with humor, pathos, and redemption. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. I will never forget it."—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

    "This book is impossible to put down because [Kerman] could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter."Los Angeles Times

    "Moving . . . transcends the memoir genre's usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you."USA Today

    "It's a compelling awakening, and a harrowing one—both for the reader and for Kerman."—Newsweek.com

    Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.
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    Excerpts-
    • Chapter One

      Are You Gonna Go My Way?

      International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly. I scurried from one to another, desperately trying to find my black suitcase. Because it was stuffed with drug money, I was more concerned than one might normally be about lost luggage.

      I was twenty-three in 1993 and probably looked like just another anxious young professional woman. My Doc Martens had been jettisoned in favor of beautiful handmade black suede heels. I wore black silk pants and a beige jacket, a typical jeune fille, not a bit counterculture, unless you spotted the tattoo on my neck. I had done exactly as I had been instructed, checking my bag in Chicago through Paris, where I had to switch planes to take a short flight to Brussels.

      When I arrived in Belgium, I looked for my black rollie at the baggage claim. It was nowhere to be seen. Fighting a rushing tide of panic, I asked in my mangled high school French what had become of my suitcase. "Bags don't make it onto the right flight sometimes," said the big lug working in baggage handling. "Wait for the next shuttle from Paris--it's probably on that plane."

      Had my bag been detected? I knew that carrying more than $10,000 undeclared was illegal, let alone carrying it for a West African drug lord. Were the authorities closing in on me? Maybe I should try to get through customs and run? Or perhaps the bag really was just delayed, and I would be abandoning a large sum of money that belonged to someone who could probably have me killed with a simple phone call. I decided that the latter choice was slightly more terrifying. So I waited.

      The next flight from Paris finally arrived. I sidled over to my new "friend" in baggage handling, who was sorting things out. It is hard to flirt when you're frightened. I spotted the suitcase. "Mon bag!" I exclaimed in ecstasy, seizing the Tumi. I thanked him effusively, waving with giddy affection as I sailed through one of the unmanned doors into the terminal, where I spotted my friend Billy waiting for me. I had inadvertently skipped customs.

      "I was worried. What happened?" Billy asked.

      "Get me into a cab!" I hissed.

      I didn't breathe until we had pulled away from the airport and were halfway across Brussels.

      My graduation processional at Smith College the year before was on a perfect New England spring day. In the sun-dappled quad, bagpipes whined and Texas governor Ann Richards exhorted my classmates and me to get out there and show the world what kind of women we were. My family was proud and beaming as I took my degree. My freshly separated parents were on their best behavior, my stately southern grandparents pleased to see their oldest grandchild wearing a mortarboard and surrounded by WASPs and ivy, my little brother bored out of his mind. My more organized and goal-oriented classmates set off for their graduate school programs or entry-level jobs at nonprofits, or they moved back home--not uncommon during the depths of the first Bush recession.

      I, on the other hand, stayed on in Northampton, Massachusetts. I had majored in theater, much to the skepticism of my father and grandfather. I came from a family that prized education. We were a clan of doctors and lawyers and teachers, with the odd nurse, poet, or judge thrown into the mix. After four years of study I still felt like a dilettante, underqualified and unmotivated for a life in the theater, but neither did I have an alternate plan, for academic studies, a meaningful career, or the great default--law school.

      I wasn't lazy. I had always worked hard through my college jobs in restaurants, bars, and...

    About the Author-
    • Piper Kerman is vice president of a Washington, D.C.--based communications firm that works with foundations and nonprofits. A graduate of Smith College, she lives in Brooklyn.

    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      August 27, 2012
      Kerman is now a successful and respected vice president of a communications firm based in Washington, D.C.—but she took a long and turbulent road to get there. In 1998, Kerman was indicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and later served 15 months in a women's prison. In this audio edition of Kerman's memoir about her experiences in prison, Cassandra Campbell provides skillful narration, capturing the essence of the story and its protagonist. The narrator's subtle portrayal of Kerman is subtle, yet ripe with tension and raw emotion. Despite a somewhat lackluster, overly reserved performance in the audiobook's early chapters, Campbell soon turns up the heat, ultimately delivering a compulsive listening experience and a memorable turn as Kerman. A Random/Spiegel & Grau paperback.

    • Publisher's Weekly

      March 8, 2010
      Relying on the kindness of strangers during her year's stint at the minimum security correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., Kerman, now a nonprofit communications executive, found that federal prison wasn't all that bad. In fact, she made good friends doing her time among the other women, many street-hardened drug users with little education and facing much longer sentences than Kerman's original 15 months. Convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering in 2003 for a scheme she got tangled up in 10 years earlier when she had just graduated from Smith College, Kerman, at 34, was a “self-surrender” at the prison: quickly she had to learn the endless rules, like frequent humiliating strip searches and head counts; navigate relationships with the other “campers” and unnerving guards; and concoct ways to fill the endless days by working as an electrician and running on the track. She was not a typical prisoner, as she was white, blue-eyed, and blonde (nicknamed “the All-American Girl”), well educated, and the lucky recipient of literature daily from her fiancé, Larry, and family and friends. Kerman's account radiates warmly from her skillful depiction of the personalities she befriended in prison, such as the Russian gangster's wife who ruled the kitchen; Pop, the Spanish mami
      ; lovelorn lesbians like Crazy Eyes; and the aged pacifist, Sister Platte. Kerman's ordeal indeed proved life altering.

    • People

      "Kerman's book is a fascinating look down the rabbit hole that is prison... Unforgettable."

    • USA Today "Orange transcends the memoir genre's usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you. You'd expect bad behavior in prison. But it's the moments of joy, friendship and kindness that the author experienced that make Orange so moving and lovely...You sense [Kerman] wrote Orange to make readers think not about her but her fellow inmates. And, boy, does she succeed."
    • Los Angeles Times "In Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, Kerman puts us inside, from the first strip search...to the prison-issue unwashed underwear to the cucumbers and raw cauliflower that count as salad.... This book is impossible to put down because she could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter."
    • Boston Globe "Kerman neither sentimentalizes nor lectures. She keeps the details of her despair to a minimum along with her discussion of the outrages of the penal system, concentrating instead on descriptions of her direct experiences, both harrowing and hilarious, and the personalities of the women who shared them with her."
    • Entertainment Weekly "Vivid, revealing..."
    • Salon.com "[An] insightful and often very funny book..."
    • Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love "I loved this book, to a depth and degree that caught me by surprise. Of course it's a compelling insider's account of life in a women's federal prison, and of course it's a behind-the-scenes look at America's war on drugs, and of course it's a story rich with humor, pathos and redemption: All of that was to be expected. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. That was the surprising twist: that behind the bars of women's prisons grow extraordinary friendships, ad hoc families, and delicate communities. In the end, this book is not just a tale of prisons, drugs, crime, or justice; it is, simply put, a beautifully told story about how incredible women can be, and I will never forget it."
    • Dave Eggers, author of Zeitoun and co-author of Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated "Don't let the irreverent title mislead: This is a serious and bighearted book that depicts life in a women's prison with great detail and--crucially--with empathy and respect for Piper Kerman's fellow prisoners, most of whom did not and do not have her advantages and options. With its expert reporting and humane, clear-eyed storytelling, Orange Is the New Black will join Ted Conover's Newjack among the necessary contemporary books about the American prison experience."
    • Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother and Daughter's Keeper "I can't stop thinking about this marvelous book, about the generous and lovely women with whom Piper Kerman served her time. I never expected to pick up a memoir about prison and find myself immersed in a story of grace, of friendship, of loyalty and love. I have never read anything like this book, and I will read and reread it again and again."
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