Orange is the New Black Summary

Piper Kerman

Orange is the New Black

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Orange is the New Black Summary

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Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison is a 2010 memoir written by Piper Kerman. Most know this title better as the massively popular Netflix comedy-drama, Orange is the New Black. The show has become Netflix’s most-watched original television series, has been nominated for sixteen Emmy Awards and won four of those, as well as six Golden Globe Nominations, six Writers Guild of America Award nominations, four Critics’ Choice Television Awards, a Peabody Award, and many more. The show is well known for featuring a diverse cast, including race, sexuality, gender and body types. This memoir is the inspiration behind it. Both the memoir and the show deal with themes of freedom versus confinement, identity, race, religion, friendship, sexuality, family, and substance abuse.

The memoir begins detailing the events of Piper Kerman’s life in the early 90s. She is twenty-four and waiting to claim her baggage of undeclared drug money in the Brussels airport. She thinks back to about two years prior, when she was just leaving university and needed something new. Piper meets Nora Jansen, a lesbian drug dealer, who entices Piper with dreams of lush, fantastic adventures. They have a wild romance in Paris and Indonesia with the rest of Nora’s drug buddies; all the while Piper’s job is glorified drug mule. Back in Brussels, Piper has a revelation; she gives up her criminal life and goes home.

Piper lives and works in San Francisco, meets her future husband, Larry, and falls in love. They move to New York, where Piper works as a television producer until the US Customs Officers show up with charges for drug smuggling and money laundering. Piper is supported by her family and friends, including Larry. She decides to plead guilty to avoid the maximum sentence, and her friends throw her a going away party.

In 2004, Piper goes to jail in Danbury, Connecticut. She has to go through a strip search (squat, spread your cheeks, and cough), she is given ugly, khaki prison scrubs, and is assigned her prison number. Piper’s prison counsellor tells her she does not have to have lesbian sex.

Piper goes through prison orientation and makes a few friends. Minetta wears makeup and gets to drive the van. Annette and Miss Luz are her roommates, and they explain a few of the rules Piper needs to remember. For example: inmates are counted five times a day; sleep on top of the bed sheets; you can only call the people on your phone sheet. The prison is clearly and distinctly divided into racial groups. Piper is greeted by the white women, who give her toothpaste, soap, and some shower shoes. Piper reads Pride and Prejudice on her first night in prison.

For the first two months, Piper is an A&O (admissions and orientation status), meaning she does not have any privileges. She is visited by Larry and her mother, whom she feels badly about involving. Piper seems to get a lot of mail and visitors.

Overall, she is pretty popular in prison. Piper is soon able to apply for a job within the prison. She applies for the teaching GED program, but is assigned to the electric shop instead. She accidentally takes a screwdriver from a worksite, which would mean being in possession of a deadly weapon if caught. She ditches the tool in a dumpster.

Piper manages to get into an argument with a woman about iceberg lettuce, but her friend Jae breaks it up. Piper meets a lot of different women in the prison. Little Janet was also a drug mule. Yoga Janet does yoga. Pop is the prison cook, whom Piper accidentally offends when she complains about the food. Later, Pop becomes Piper’s prison mom. Vanessa is a trans woman, whose counterpart in the web show is played by the iconic trans woman Laverne Cox. Nina is Italian and makes root beer floats with her commissary money. Little Alice gets thrown into the SHU when she speaks out against the head of education.

No one wants to deal with Martha Stewart in prison, so for a time Danbury pretends to be closed. Piper thinks the Rock will someday become the President. She celebrates her birthday in prison and receives tons of cards and chocolate. Her grandmother dies, and Piper is not able to visit her before it is too late. An officer quits when rumours accuse him of having a relationship with an inmate. Martha Stewart is sentenced somewhere else, and everyone is pretty happy about that.

Piper’s release date is approaching, and many of the women she befriended begin to head home as well. Piper is called as a witness in Chicago on Christmas Day. She is asked to testify against Jonathan Bibby, who was one of Nora’s drug rivals. By some small chance, Piper is placed in the same cell as Nora and her sister. For the time being, they agree to a truce until the trial. Nora claims she never ratted Piper out, and Piper believes her. Piper testifies, and she is released from prison in Chicago. She is hundreds of miles away from Danbury, her home, and Larry. But everything turns out in the end, and Larry is there waiting for her on the other side.