Orange is the New Black Book Summary, by Piper Kerman

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1-Page Summary of Orange is the New Black

Overall Summary

Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black (2010) is a memoir that chronicles her time in prison. The book starts with Piper committing a crime, then goes through the process of sentencing and her time in Danbury Prison. It also shows how she changed as a person while in prison.

Orange is the New Black, a memoir by Piper Kerman, tells the story of her time spent in prison. It covers three parts: before she went to jail, when she was with Nora and Larry (fictional characters based on Cleary Wolters and Larry Smith), and after being released from prison. The structure of the book mirrors the themes of injustice within US prisons as well as racial divides between inmates. The book doesn’t use flashbacks; instead it chronicles events without them. And true to memoir style, Kerman writes from her perspective about what happened during those times in prison. She provides detailed descriptions that are critical of how prisoners are treated while incarcerated but also offers an honest account of life behind bars for herself and other inmates at Danbury Federal Prison Camp.

The book is about the friendships that Kerman makes while in Danbury. She also reflects on her experience there, as well as other inmates’ experiences. The author points out how different her imprisonment was from others’. For example, she had a good education and came from a supportive family; these things made it easier for her to read books to pass the time and have contact with people outside of prison. However, most prisoners come from poor families with little support outside of prison. They won’t have homes or jobs when they leave Danbury. The author has empathy for these women because she knows what’s going to happen after their release.

The memoir is about the author’s experience in prison. She describes what it was like to be an inmate, including jobs they had, food they ate, and friendships they made. Additionally, she discusses how being in prison changed her character by making her more empathetic towards others. In the beginning of the story, Kerman is a rebellious person who doesn’t want to conform to traditional norms; however after going through some difficulties while incarcerated she becomes more open-minded and appreciative of other people’s help.

Chapter 1: “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”

Kerman starts the memoir by talking about a specific event that happened when she was 24. She was at an airport in Brussels retrieving money from baggage claim for her girlfriend, Nora. However, before this moment, Kerman recalls how she recently graduated from Smith College with a theatre degree and felt like the black sheep of her family because they were all doctors or lawyers or teachers.

She has a thirst for the bohemian lifestyle and no clear plan. This attracts her to Nora, an older woman with money who is adventurous and travels frequently because she runs money for Alaji, an African drug lord. She describes her life as dangerous but exciting. Kerman begins to want that kind of life after spending time with Nora and decides to move away from Northampton to San Francisco with Lisa, a friend of hers. Before she leaves however, Nora asks Kerman if she will go on business trip in Indonesia with her; since Kerman wants adventure, she agrees.

Nora Kerman, a drug mule for Alaji, explains that she’s going to Paris for her new magazine job and then will go to Bali. While in Bali, Nora is supposed to wire money from her bank account into Kerman’s account as payment for the drugs. However, there are problems with this plan because of delays in the money transfers and an extra $10k fee added by Nora’s boss. In order to get around these issues and make sure she gets paid, Kerman spends time exploring Paris before flying out again; meanwhile Nora handles most of the business side of things. Occasionally though, when it comes time to collect on one of their deals together (i.e., pick up a cash transfer), Kerman does so but doesn’t realize that what they’re doing is illegal until later on down the road when she learns about all the other people involved in their operation who have been arrested or killed over it already.

Orange is the New Black Book Summary, by Piper Kerman