Piper Kerman is not the person that comes to mind when drug trafficking charges are brought up. In fact, Piper Kerman was just a girl with a loving family, a great boyfriend, and active friends until her past caught up with her in 2003.
Now this vivacious, seemingly well-to-do young woman had to come clean to her family, boyfriend, and friends about her overseas lesbian, drug smuggling lover and her own part in carrying one suitcase full of money through an airport. Not exactly proper dinner conversation.
Kerman was sentenced to 15 months in Danbury correctional facility in Connecticut, and self surrendered. It didn’t take Kerman long to learn the ropes of prison. It;s okay to ask how long a person is “in” for, but never ask what the crime was that landed them there. Never make the guards angry, and keep everything clean with no cleaning products. While it is fair to say that Kerman wasn’t a typical prisoner, the cast of characters including a pacifist nun, a Russian gangsters wife, and Spanish mother figures, completes a spectrum of people who feel under the umbrella of the war on drugs. Most of these non-violent offenders were not a danger to anyone but themselves, however their prison assignments would suggest otherwise.
Kerman was able to write from an observant prospective instead of a pitiful one, taking the reader through the process of becoming inmate 11187–424 to see that under no circumstances was this “Club Fed” or a death camp. Kerman paints the prison system to be a place where many people can become lost, damaged, and go without the help that they need to become productive members of society again.
The shocking part of this book isn’t exactly what goes on in the prison, but the voice that explains it. Kerman is so close to being everyone you know that prison becomes something real instead of a concrete death structure. Kerman’s narrative goes beyond the usual memoir requirements and explains tot he reader what happens behind the scenes, and how a person like Kerman (or you) could end up in this situation.
A mix of funny situations, survival adaptations, and complete culture shock Kerman’s memoir goes far beyond it’s Netflix counterpart to deliver factual information with a side of humorous perspective.