Orange Is the New Black
If you haven’t read the book that the hit Netflix show is based on, what are you waiting for? The two differ in characters and plot (as you can imagine, the show turned the drama dial up to 11), but it’s worth reading about Kerman’s eye-opening experiences in her own words.
Tiffany Jenkins was the captain of her high school cheerleading squad, and a few years later, was dating her hometown Deputy Sheriff. That’s why her time in jail—20 felonies committed as a result of opioid addiction—was such a shock to her small town. This memoir chronicles her incredible story to recovery.
This novel focuses on a soldier’s return home after working as a medic in Iraq. In addition to harrowing memories of his deployment, he’s faced with the opioid epidemic in the Midwest. He soon becomes a heroin user and turns to a life of crime in order to fuel his addiction.
As far as prison fiction goes, Affinity is one of the greatest. It’s set in Victorian London and features Margaret Prior, who visits the women’s ward of a notorious prison. There she becomes drawn in by Selina Dawes, a spiritualist who claims her innocence, and becomes devoted to securing Selina’s freedom.
Where is the line between addiction and using alcohol as a coping mechanism? That’s what Koren Zailckas’s memoir examines. She used alcohol as liquid courage, but as the years progressed, her use and habits became more and more dangerous until she realized she needed to stop drinking altogether.
The Other Wes Moore
You can’t talk about prison without examining the role that race plays in the system. The Other Wes Moore features two men with the same name: one ended up a Rhodes Scholar and a decorated veteran, while the other is serving a life sentence for murder. How does this happen, and what can be done to break the cycle of poverty and violence?
Margaret Atwood’s modern classic (which was adapted into a Netflix miniseries) follows Grace Marks, a housekeeper who’s convicted of murdering her employer and sentenced to life in prison. But she claims to have no memory of the murders, which attracts the attention of a mental illness expert and others who want to secure her freedom.
What happens to a society when incarcerating its citizens becomes a for-profit endeavor? That’s what Shane Bauer looks at in this examination of private prisons. He takes a job as an entry-level prison guard at a for-profit prison; his book traces the origin of these private facilities, from the antebellum South up to now.
A World Apart
This book looks at the phenomenon of incarcerated women, a number that’s quintupled in the past two decades, mostly on drug-related charges. It manages to combine a broad, overarching story with the one-on-one tales of what these women—especially women of color—face in the justice system.
Orange is the New Black made waves when it hit Netflix years ago, and now the show is coming to an end with its seventh season. The narrative of the series centers on Piper Chapman, an upper-middle-class woman who’s convicted of a years-prior drug offense and sent to prison. If you’re itching to move beyond her story (as the secondary characters in the show have always been the highlight of the series), we have some book recommendations for you.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Netflix