Who Is Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black?

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 Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black? What is her role in the story, and is she friends with Piper?

Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black is one of the women that Piper befriends. Pennsatucky, along with other women, helps Piper get through her difficult time in prison.

Read more about Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black.

Pennsatucky: Orange Is the New Black

While at Danbury, Piper made several close friends. Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black was one of those friends. Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black discussed with Piper the subtle art of making homemade prison dildos using sporks, maxi pads, and rubber gloves.

When one inmate named Vanessa was released, the group threw a party. She was only at the minimum security camp for a few short months, a reward for good behavior at the very end of her sentence. As was the time-honored Danbury custom, Vanessa’s bunkmates threw her a sumptuous (by prison standards) going-away party. These parties were an important ritual for the prisoner community, a well-wishing to someone hopefully closing a painful chapter of their old life and starting a new one. They brought the women together in celebration and solidarity—when someone you knew was finally going home, it was as if everyone had regained a small piece of freedom.

The women of The Ghetto gave Vanessa the warm send-off she deserved, bringing her an array of homemade prison delicacies. Piper even made a “cheesecake,” using vanilla pudding, lemon juice, Laughing Cow cheese, and crushed graham crackers, a delicacy for which she had become renowned at Danbury. In her farewell speech, Vanessa talked about how moved she was by the spirit of love and community she’d found in this most unlikely of places. She told her fellow prisoners that although she’d undergone surgery to become a female, it took coming to a women’s prison to truly become a woman.

This wasn’t the only memorable party Piper got to attend that fall of 2004. On September 28, 

Pop summoned Piper to the visiting room. When Piper arrived, she was greeted by her friends yelling, “Surprise!” Pop and Jae had organized a surprise 35th birthday party for her, complete with a full prison banquet, decorations, and gifts. Piper was overcome with gratitude, joy, and emotion when Pop presented her with a pair of homemade slippers, made from reconstructed shower shoes and covered in crocheted yarn, with the help of her friends like Pennsatucky in Orange is the New Black.

Seeing all her friends—Pop, Jae, Little Janet, Rosemarie, Pennsatucky, Toni—gathered together was overwhelming. These were women whom, a year ago, she wouldn’t have ever thought she would even meet. Now, they were among her very closest friends. Piper saw that she had a community at Danbury, with people who truly loved and cared for her. Little Janet wrote a heartfelt letter to Piper, telling her to stay strong and reminding her that she would soon be back home with her family and her fiance. Jae handed Piper a handmade birthday card, in which she wrote, “I never thought I’d find a friend like you.” 

Reflection and Release

Shortly after the Bibby trial, the Jansen sisters were boarded onto a BOP plane and sent off to a new federal facility. Piper would not be joining them this time. They exchanged a quick farewell with Piper, although they did not understand why Piper was not coming on the plane with them. Although there was no love lost between Piper and Nora after everything that had happened between them, it was a bittersweet moment. Piper was wistful at seeing her go—she knew she would probably never see her again. 

With her release just around the corner, Piper took the time to reflect and take stock of her experience and the wild journey she’d been on. She’d been brought face-to-face with people from backgrounds so different than her own, people with whom she never would have thought she’d have anything in common. Now, she saw how wrong she was. The community of women in prison had saved her. Isolated from everyone and everything she’d loved before, these women—Pop, Yoga Janet, Jae, Pom-Pom, Nina, Rosemarie, and Pennsatucky in Orange is the New Black—had made her feel less alone in the world. Their struggle and success in preserving their humanity in the face of a system that sought to crush it was nothing short of heroic. They taught her compassion she never thought herself capable of and revealed strengths she never knew she had.

Who Is Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black?

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Here's what you'll find in our full Orange Is The New Black summary:

  • 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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