Monday, December 16, 2013

2 Memoirs - Very Different And, Then Again, Not So Much

I have just read 2 memoirs in the last week or so that I really liked.  One is Orange Is the New Black, by Piper Kerman, and the 2nd is Slow Getting Up, by Nate Jackson.  I'll review Piper's book today and Nate's book tomorrow.  I'm going to enthusiastically recommend both of them.

Orange is the story of Piper Kerman's year spent in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticutt.  There are no spoiler alerts here.  When Piper was in her early 20's, she let herself be influenced by an older woman to do some drug running for her.  6 years later, she was arrested by the feds, and 6 years after that, she was sentenced to 15 months in prison (she only served 12).  Piper takes us through the whole process of how she came to be involved in drugs and, then, how she got caught.  She gives a detailed, but fascinating, account of the legal process and why it took 6 years from the time of her arrest to the time she got to Danbury.

But the best stuff is about her life in prison.  I've only known one person who has been to prison, and he's still there now.  So, like everybody else, what I know comes from movies, TV, and books.  Hardly reliable sources.  Well, now I have a better feel for it.  Even when there's no physical abuse, either by prisoners or guards, it's still pretty brutal.  Without giving away specifics, I can tell you that I cried a bunch (no surprise there), laughed a lot, and exclaimed quite a bit. And on top of that, my jaw dropped plenty.  It was a roller coaster ride for both Piper and the readers.

There are 2 other things I will tell you.  1. It's very moving when she finally realizes how her small part in the drug running process contributed to ruining people's lives.  And 2. Her editor gave Piper back her manuscript and told her to connect emotionally with what she wrote.  This is the same advice that Jeanette Walls' editor told her when she 1st submitted The Glass Castle.  It's huge the difference it makes to the reader when you can feel what the author is saying.  You are connecting with the author, not just reading words.

This book is a 3.5/4.


  1. Though I'm not one to read memoirs, I have to say that your review of Orange is the New Black is terrific!

  2. Thanks, Beth. Always a high compliment coming from you.