Piper Kerman, a Smith-educated, self-described boho, WASPy ex-lesbian, got mixed up with the wrong crowd after college. Enthralled by the flashy lifestyle of her then-girlfriend, Kerman took transatlantic flights to deliver large sums of cash for an African drug lord. Her criminal career didn't last long, and she quickly turned her life around.
Years later, Kerman was relaxing in her pajamas in the West Village apartment she shared with her boyfriend when she heard her buzzer ring. It was the police-her past had finally caught up with her, and she ended up serving more than a year in a federal penitentiary for a crime she'd committed a decade earlier.
Orange Is the New Black offers a fascinating glimpse inside the walls of a women's prison. The most interesting-and touching-part of the book concerns the bonds Kerman formed in prison with women she never would have met on the outside, let alone befriended. These include "Spanish mamis," "Eminemlettes," a post-op transsexual, and tough Brooklyn Italians. After seeing firsthand how drug addiction ravaged the lives of so many of her fellow inmates and their families, the seriousness of her crimes hits Kerman hard. But it is difficult to argue with her stance that the lessons she learned would have come through just as clearly-and the community would have been better served-if she had instead been sentenced to a long stint of community service, working with addicts.