Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
By Piper Kerman
Spiegel & Grau, 2011. 327 pages. Biography
During a few wild years in her early 20s, Piper Kerman once delivered a suitcase of drug money in Europe. Over a decade later, that transgression caught up with Kerman and she was sentenced to fifteen months at a federal correctional facility in Connecticut. This is the story of Kerman's time in prison, telling of her initial culture shock and the ways she learned to navigate the strict codes of behavior as well as the sometimes mystifyingly arbitrary rules. She also makes observations about the prison system itself, and illustrates some shortcomings that contribute to the perpetuation of the cycle of incarceration.
This is a fascinating story of a society and culture that many of us may never be acquainted with personally, yet is critical to understand. Kerman helps to pull down the barrier of "otherness" that surrounds the prison system and build empathy for the people inhabiting it. Be aware that there is a good amount of language in this book.