screenshot160 I enjoy the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black” but the best thing I can say about Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is The New Black is that it bears little semblance to the series.

One of my favorite things about the TV series is that we get the backstories of the other prisoners. We get very little of that in the memoir. But what we do get in the memoir is to me, in many ways, much more telling and engaging.

A co-worker read Orange Is The New Black at the same time I did, and it was my book club’s February selection. Overwhelmingly, we all said the humanness presented in the memoir was the thing we liked most about it. The memoir makes clear some of the challenges of the US Justice System- the seemingly arbitrary and sometimes excessively long lock-up times for non-violent crimes. The absolute loss of power for a prisoner with sometimes-unscrupulous corrections officers. The woefully inadequate re-entry preparation the justice system provides for inmates about to be released.  Imagine entering prison before the Internet was in seemingly every household and leaving in the age of the iPhone. Without a strong support structure in place, it is a recipe for failure- and repeat offenses.

The most poignant part of Kerman’s memoir is her realization of the impact of her actions.  Not only on her friends and family and what her incarceration did to them, but also what the drug trade is doing to communities and families throughout the country.

Kerman owes a debt of gratitude to the support system she had in place while she served her sentence. She had the unwavering support of her family and her now-husband and numerous friends. That support was critical to her mental health while inside and so much stronger than what many other prisoners face.

Although it is rather slow paced, I enjoyed the memoir in many ways much more than the series. And for those who may be put off by the salaciousness of the series, there is none of that in the book.  Instead, it’s a personal story of a person dealing with the consequences of her actions, and what she learned about life, others, and herself in the process.