The World According to Renee

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Review: Orange is the New Black (memoir)

Not long ago, I discovered Orange is the New Black. Thankfully, binge-watching is a thing and I got through the first two seasons fairly quickly (taps foot waiting for the third).

Somewhere along this path, I discovered the TV show was based on a memoir and apparently, it’s nothing like the series. Fair enough, I’d expect a little creative license to draw out a 13 month sentence into an ongoing television series.

Santa was kind enough to drop this memoir to me, and I went into it not expecting it to be like TV… and it’s not. The characters on the show are either completely made up or an amalgamation of 2-3 characters from the memoir. Characters on the show are also exaggerated; for example Pennsatucky in the show is a fundamentalist Christian whom Piper does not get along with. She shares no traits except her nickname in the memoir; indeed Piper and Pennsatucky were good friends in real life. There are no other characters who share names, although Piper Kerman notes at the end that she did change some names to protect identities.

So, is the memoir worth the read? Yes. Just don’t expect the juicy stuff as shown on TV. In fact, there are very few incidents which made the transition from memoir to TV. It’s possible Piper didn’t include everything in her memoir but added it to the show, or (far more likely) that the producers decided to flesh it out with more sex and drama.

In any case, the memoir is very episodic: what happens in each chapter stays in each chapter. There’s no continuing narrative to link her experiences. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. Kerman details a series of incidents rather than forming an overall picture of her time in Danbury prison, and being a model prisoner, nothing terribly exciting happens to her. The other inmates are equally placid and not even their crimes are detailed. There’s no sex, no drama, no interaction with the guards except for minor instances such as being told off for breaking the No Touching rule when Piper was giving Pop a foot massage.

If you’re a diehard fan of the show you may want to give the memoir a miss as you’ll be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a good read, have no expectations and are willing to accept that TV is very different, then you’ll enjoy the memoir.

4/5 bookmarks


January 2, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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