Who Is the Orange Is the New Black Author?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Orange Is The New Black" by Piper Kerman. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who is the Orange Is the New Black author? Did Piper Kerman really go to prison?

The Orange Is the New Black author Piper Kerman spent a year in prison after being sentenced for her drug smuggling activities that she committed five years prior.

Read more about the Orange Is the New Black author Piper Kerman and her memoir.

Orange Is the New Black Author: Piper Kerman

The Orange Is the New Black author is Piper Kerman. Piper Kerman’s memoir of her year at a federal women’s prison. Piper was a well-educated white woman from an upper-middle-class, liberal New England family. Growing up in these circumstances, there seemed to be little doubt that Piper would go to a good college, graduate, and start a successful career as a white-collar professional. With her social and financial privileges, as well as her obvious intelligence and solid work ethic, this kind of life was certainly open to Piper. But Piper was to take a different path, one that her experiences and background could never have prepared her for. In Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman struggles with prison life, but is able to write her groundbreaking memoir following her experience. The Orange is the New Black writer catalogs her time there.

Piper’s Past Comes Back

The Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman was not expecting to go to prison for crimes she committed years ago. In May 1998, Piper and Larry’s happy life in New York received a rude awakening. One day while Piper was at home in their apartment, she heard a knock at the door. When she answered, she was shocked to find two US customs officials. She let them into the apartment, where they told her that she was being indicted on conspiracy charges related to her drug smuggling activities with Nora, which she had ended five years before. The customs officials told her that she needed to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. In Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman starts this shocking beginning to a stage in her life.

As Piper read the indictment, her past came flooding back. Apparently, the drug ring had collapsed and the participants started informing on one another in an attempt to secure more lenient sentences. Nora gave Piper’s name to the authorities.

Naturally, Piper was shocked, embarrassed, and terrified upon hearing this news. Was this real? Could she really be facing the prospect of going to prison? When she called to tell Larry what her situation was, he was initially incredulous, believing that she was pulling a prank on him. Piper told him that it was no joke, that she was really being indicted on federal drug charges. Piper told Larry all about her past with Nora—a subject he knew nothing about. Larry was taken aback, but supportive, telling Piper that he would stand by her no matter what happened.

After speaking with an attorney, Piper learned that she was facing a potential sentence of a decade in prison if she was convicted at trial. This, she learned, was because of “mandatory minimum” statutes. Mandatory minimums limit the ability of judges to modify sentences based on individual defendants’ circumstances and are a major driver of the skyrocketing US prison population. 

Piper’s lengthy sentence could be avoided, however, if she agreed to accept a plea deal in exchange for a lighter sentence. Although she would certainly go to prison by taking this deal, she would be incarcerated for a much shorter period of time. Not wanting to run the risk of receiving the maximum sentence by going to trial, Piper pleaded guilty in 1998 and awaited her fate.

Orange Is the New Black Author Receives Her Sentence

The Orange Is the New Black author Piper Kerman had to wait to see if she had to testify before reporting to prison. Ultimately, the UK government decided in 2003 not to extradite the West African drug kingpin, choosing instead to place him on trial in Great Britain. Piper would no longer be needed to stand as a witness in his trial. This meant that there was no longer any need to delay her sentencing. Piper was again overwhelmed with emotion when she saw how much support she had from her friends and family, who wrote letters to the court attesting to her character and urging the government to give her a light sentence. 

Piper was, at last, sentenced on December 8, 2003 to 15 months in prison at the Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury, Connecticut, a decade after committing the original offense for which she had been convicted. The unknown date was finally at hand. Although she was frightened by the thought of prison, she was relieved to be sentenced near her family, where they would be able to visit her on a regular basis. 

After the sentence was handed down, Piper had one more meeting with her attorney. He assured her that, while she was unlikely to face physical danger at a minimum-security facility, incarcerated life would still be a major transition for someone of Piper’s background. He warned her not to make friends or get entangled in disputes among inmates or between inmates and the correctional staff. He predicted that the most difficult aspect of prison life for Piper would be putting up with the myriad petty tyrannies of poorly educated and ill-tempered prison officials, or as he put it, “chickenshit rules enforced by chickenshit people.” The Orange Is the New Black writer would quickly learn this to be true.

After a tequila-soaked goodbye party in Manhattan’s East Village the night before she was to report to Danbury, she and Larry headed out the door the next morning to greet this new, and most unexpected, phase of their lives. The Orange Is the New Black writer was ready to move on.

In Orange Is the New Black, Piper Kerman spends a year in prison, a short sentence compared to many other women there. But she is released on time, and goes on to write her. groundbreaking memoir.

Who Is the Orange Is the New Black Author?

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  • The real, more nuanced story behind the hit TV show
  • How upper-class Piper Kerman landed in prison on drug charges
  • The key lessons Kerman learned about society and herself

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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