If you read Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is The New Black or binge-watched the Netflix adaptation (and who hasn’t done that?), chances are you have wondered about the real-life woman behind Nora (in the book) and Alex Vause (the character in the show). For the first time ever, 51-year-old novelist and PhD student Catherine Cleary Wolters has spoken to Vanity Fair about her relationship with Kerman, their mutually-assured-destruction as cash smugglers for an African drug lord, and her side of their love story. Keep reading »
It’s safe to say that Netflix’s latest original series, “Orange is the New Black,” is nothing short of binge-worthy. I devoured the entire first season in under 96 hours (seriously). Groundbreaking on many levels, the show openly displays queer female sexuality and features a uniquely complex portrayal of a black transgender woman (played by the brilliant black trans actress Laverne Cox). What’s more, the vibrant cast of diverse characters offers viewers a rare exploration of what privilege is and how it works. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the show’s main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a perfect lesson in privilege.
I can’t stand Piper. I find her whiny, entitled, possessive, incredibly self-obsessed, an emblem of unchecked privilege. But I actually think that’s intentional; Piper would be the character we all root for, when in reality, she seems to be one of the least liked. As Salamishah Tillet noted over at The Nation, the main character of “Orange” probably had to be white and college-educated for the show (and memoir upon which it’s based) to get picked up, and this is a valid point. But with Piper, we’re also forced to come face to face with her privilege, and we can’t stand what we see. [Spoilers after the jump!] Keep reading »
I’ve been willfully chained to my television for the past week, tearing through episodes of Jenji Kohan’s latest, “Orange Is The New Black” — and I highly recommend you do the same. For the uninitiated, this is the story of Piper Chapman, a bougie, well-meaning white lady who is plopped into a minimum security prison for a year to serve time for a brief incident as a mule for her drug-trafficking ex-girlfriend. I was reluctant at first to watch this show, my mind clouded with the memory of the last few seasons of “Weeds,” but after some urging from a trusted friend, I settled in and was instantly hooked. Here’s why.
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In February 2004, Piper Kerman arrived at the women’s prison in Danbury, Conn., to serve a yearlong sentence for a drug-related crime she’d committed 10 years before.
“There’s no visiting today,” an officer told Piper when her fiancé pulled into one of the parking areas.
“I’m here to surrender,” she said.
Piper spent the next 13 months behind bars, navigating the minimum-security federal correctional facility in Danbury and other prisons in Oklahoma City and Chicago. She kept her sanity by running around an outdoor track; learning yoga from a fellow inmate; visiting with her family, friends, and fiancé on a weekly basis; performing electrical and construction work around the prison; reading; writing lots and lots of letters; and bonding with the women who were locked up with her. Her amazing new book, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, details the experience, from how she ended up in jail in the first place to what it was like waiting five years before getting sentenced. She spoke with The Frisky about why it’s important to make friends in prison and how her incarceration relates to the bigger picture. Keep reading »