Book recommendations from certain friends hold varying degrees of weight. A book recommendation from my friend Katie Maxwell rarely disappoints so when K. Max suggested I check out Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman, I didn't waste (too much) time doing just that. HCG highly recommends OITNB. After her graduation from Smith College, Piper Kerman, bored and unsure of what to do next, engaged in a brief foray in the world of international drug trafficking (c'mon, Piper - couldn't you have just gone to law school like everyone else?). 10 years after she smuggled a suitcase full of dirty money from Chicago to Brussels, Kerman, a very normal and well-educated thirtysomething woman living in the West Village, received a knock on her door from two federal agents with an indictment in hand. GAME OVER, PIPER.
Kerman pleaded guilty to money laundering (legal side note: the more serious charge of conspiracy was dropped) and received her sentence: 15 months in federal prison to be served at the women's correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut.
Kerman recounts her year as an inmate - from her last few days of freedom before surrendering at Danbury to the supportive fellow inmates who helped her survive her time inside - with vivid detail and in a relatable voice. Sure, the words "strip search" sound embarrassing, but it's not until Kerman describes having to, after each prison visit from a friend or family member, strip naked for a corrections officer, turn around, squat, spread her buttcheeks apart and cough that you recognize just how humiliating the process actually is. Perhaps OITNB is so identifiable because Piper Kerman herself is; the memoir reads with the familiarity of an account by your friend or acquaintance who ended up in prison.
Do you think you could handle a year in federal prison? Most people think I could take it (apparently I'm scrappy enough), but we all know MR would fail terribly. She simply doesn't possess sufficient inner toughness to survive prison life, and she has always remarked that going to prison is her biggest fear. If you ever find yourself about to serve a sentence in federal prison, READ THIS BOOK. Kerman points out that there is lots of reading material available regarding men's prisons but very little information regarding women's facilities. We're hoping Kerman thoughtfully sent an autographed copy to Lindsay Lohan to help her prepare for her quick sentence in county jail.
Beware: this book may launch you into a fascination with prison-related literature, just as Anne Frank's diary ignited an adolescent K. Max's obsession with Holocaust reads.