Sunday, August 25, 2019
The Book Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
I was enthralled with the different types of power in the prison. Power over those with even less power is the thing that appears to drive everything in this system, be it from the gatekeepers (the Warden and staff), or the Gangs, or from the inmate hierarchy. But there is also that "inner" power that resides within each inmate. These power plays in the story were upsetting but also interesting.
In addition, I enjoyed how the inmates often banded together in their support of one another within certain groups. True friendships, bonds, and a community were created in this harsh environment. It seemed many of these connection were stronger and tighter than what we find "on the outside". This surprised me.
The author is white, blond, fit, thin, middle class, and educated. She also had a high priced lawyer. Most of the people around her told her she was a victim and her incarceration was just bad luck. She could have easily swam in that pity party and drowned in the toxic blame game, but she took responsibility and accepted her role in all of this. I respected her for not viewing herself as a victim.
I also found myself pondering the concept taught in my youth - 'bloom where you are planted'. Can a person who is imprisoned really bloom? I mean, survival alone is challenging with all those abuses of power, incompetence, negligence, and complicit behaviors. Even though the odds are very high against anyone in this system to shine or improve, the author showed us it is possible.
The authors story really is a journey of how she learned to become an inmate and then navigate in this unfamiliar brutal territory. We follow along with her initial naiveté, then how she learned to survive, and finally how she slowly started to take more control. Eventually she seemed to choose which thoughts, actions, and even values to keep in her mental thought garden, which seemed to help navigate her to a place where she was able to bloom. She lets us know she was able to do all this because she had emotional and financial support from the outside - which most inmates don't have. I found her process rather fascinating.
I recommend the book. The TV series is rather ho hum. But the book is captivating and insightful.