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During my period of partial vision loss, I watched a lot of tv. And eating- I did a lot of that too, mostly sad, unfulfilled, I-shall-fill-the-void-in-my-life-with-food eating. But I digress. One of the many shows I had taken to escaping in was the super-successful Orange is the New Black. I enjoyed watching the way the girls in the prison both looked out for each other and kept their distance at the same time.

It reminded me of high school girl friendships, always a source of difficulty for me. I once had a friend named Mandy, who was, actually, not my friend. She was horrible. She’d be super nice to me for days then arrive at school and completely ignore me, then get some other poor girl to tell me that Mandy had decided I was too ugly to be her friend. I spent years tortured by this horrible bully who I was, thanks to a small rural school, totally unable to escape. Some of the relationships in OITNB reminded me of Mandy. I was captivated and troubled by how quickly things could turn, and what can you do when you actually physically cannot get away from each other?

Some part of me also wished, albeit in a different context, for those relationships where both parties show nothing but complete loyalty to each other, placing their friends above their own needs.

So, given my strange appreciation for Piper’s character, and my newly returned ability to read (Did I mention, yay!?) I delved into the book version which inspired the tv series. I enjoyed seeing familiar characters from a different perspective. The novel form is so well equipped to handle complex backstories and emotions; these things in tv land are so often reduced to a sad look or a quick throwback, which doesn’t serve to give the same depth of feeling that the written word can. Reading descriptions of Piper’s experiences, and the hurt created by her trusted lover, gave me a new understanding of the events that transpired in the tv series. I could see now why the TV Piper was who she was. In case you’re one of the last few humans on Earth who hasn’t seen the show – read the book. It’ll make your experience of the show much more meaningful. If you have seen the show, read the book anyway- if for nothing else than a good experiment in the contrasting strengths of the written and acted forms.

I’m a big fan of Book Depository for a good old fashioned paper copy. Get a copy here: https://www.bookdepository.com/Orange-is-New-Black-Piper-Kerman/9780349139869

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