Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black is a memoir which illustrates how a person’s life may take a complete change, negatively or positively. It is a story of a young lady, Piper Kerman, who in the process of trying to discover herself, gets engaged in drugs trafficking and money laundering, an offense that lands her in jail for 1 year and 3 months. She decides to take responsibility of her action by taking the jail time, although she feels better and angry towards Nora, her lover, who introduced her to drugs. In prison, Kerman is forced to adapt to a totally new life as compared to the luxurious one she had been accustomed to with the influence of Nora. She now has to follow a certain routine in regards to meals, sleeping, interaction with people and obviously, freedom. She has to follow the procedures laid down in prison, both by the prison administrators and the inmates themselves, to survive for the one year term that she is to serve. Kerman is also able to learn how to be flexible, open and accountable, which are some of the characteristics of the habits of the mind. She also looks for a new purpose of her life which includes her life with her boyfriend Larry. Kerman demonstrated resilience and grit, purpose and positive drive in her prison, taking responsibility of her criminal actions in preparation for the new life that awaited her after the jail term.

As stated above, Kerman is able to use the habits of the mind, both before her imprisonment and after she was imprisoned. Before she was imprisoned, she was very curious. Curiosity in this case may be described as being the desire to know more about the world. Kerman was eager to travel through the world, see new places and have adventure. Kerman stated that “I had no idea of what to do with all my pen-up longing for adventure, or how to make my eagerness to take risks productive”. This life was made possible through her lover Nora. Nora was well off enough to make her get accustomed to this kind of life. Curiosity also made Kerman want to know how Nora was able to afford that luxurious life, and that is how she got introduced to drugs trafficking. Kerman’s openness may be demonstrated by the fact that she willingly accepted to try out what Nora did for a living, though she knew it would be risky. She demonstrated her willingness to consider new means of being and thinking in the world. She also got used to being friends with lesbians and actually got involved with one, something that would have made her shy formerly.

Another habit of the mind that Kerman learnt is responsibility. This began after she was arrested and charged with the offence of drug trafficking. Though not entirely her fault, Kerman decided to take responsibility of her actions an face the one year jail term that was imposed on her. Though she felt bitter and betrayed by Nora, she did her term with a positive mind, trying to avoid things that would land her in trouble while in prison. She particularly felt betrayed by Nora after she learnt that Nora had given the prosecution a testimony which linked her to the money laundering and drug trafficking charges. Kerman also demonstrated responsibility by owning up her past mistakes to her family and also her boyfriend Larry. She also surrendered herself to prison to face punishment for her mistake, showing that she was taking responsibility of her actions. This was after she pleaded guilty of the money laundering charges brought against her. Kerman demonstrated a lot of flexibility while in prison. Flexibility has been defined to mean the ability to adapt to situations, expectations and demands”. She had to get accustomed to the way things were run in prison. She had to adhere with guidelines on the type and time of food, work, sleeping time, grey uniform and of course the limitation of freedom of movement. For instance, she had to adapt to not sleeping inside the bed sheets, as she was informed that she would be the only person in the whole prison who did that Kerman stated that “I let go of the bed issue—the thought of hundreds of women sleeping on top of perfectly made military-style beds was too strange for me to deal with at that moment”. This was unlike the life that she had gotten used to, where she would travel around the world, do expensive shopping and generally plan her own life. She was forced to accept that her life was now under the hands of the prison department and this made her even more corporative as she yearned for the freedom she would be entitled to once her term was over.


Kerman was also able to attain purpose during her jail term. Trying to get accustomed to the new life in prison was not easy for her, but she tried to maintain her calm. She particularly found it hard not to communicate with Larry, her boyfriend especially after sarcastic comments by the wardens of how Larry would still wait for her to end her jail term. These made Kerman try to be patient and follow all e rules to avoid getting into trouble or being denied the visitation opportunities or phone calls. Daniel H. Pink descries purpose to the natural will by humans to seek purpose and making contributions and e part of a cause which is more and long lasting than themselves. She also purposed at helping the inmates, who she quickly got along with well. She would help them write appeal letters as she was considered to be one of the most educated in that prison. Being a positive impact in the lives of other inmates also acted as a drive to Kerman. Kerman, therefore worked hard to be a positive change both to herself and to the society. One of the ways in which she tried to change positively is avoiding Nora who was also later imprisoned. She made new friends in prison, people such as Pop who gave her a new sense of direction and avoided people like Nora who reminded her of her past criminal life and negative things in her life. Kerman also tried to keep in contact with Larry as many times as possible who would encourage her to stay strong and also kept her updated on current issues outside the prison walls. This gave her motivation, purpose and drive towards life outside prison. She would also keep herself occupied reading books and poems that Larry sent her.

The final trait that Kerman learnt through her experience in prison is resilience and grit. Deborah Perkins- Gough defines grit to mean the “quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals. Resilience has been defined by Deborah to mean “optimism, appraising situations without distorting them, thinking about changes that are possible to make in your life. She also says that resilience may be used to refer to people who have come from at- risk environments who thrive nevertheless”. This illustrates the life of Kerman, just before she was imprisoned and after she was imprisoned. After the abortion of the trafficking of drugs that Kerman was supposed to carry out under the instructions of Nora, Kerman decided to completely cut off links between her and Norah. She even got a new job where she earned a living through legal means. She also moved on with her life and got romantically involved with Larry, who turned out to be of great help when she got imprisoned. Larry did not give up on Kerman due to her dark past, not only criminally, but also her romantic involvement with a woman. Larry gave her a second chance and even helped her to break the news to their families of the charges and the potential jail term she would face. She was proud of her relationship with Larry and often told stories about him to her friends in prison. Kerman, therefore, demonstrated resilience and grit from bouncing back from her adverse criminal life to a positive and productive life, keeping away from negative influences and forces in her life. Kerman showed a positive response to her failure or adversity. Though she felt devastated to spend 15 months in prison, she made all attempts to ensure that she would learn from her experience. She even got herself a book on how to survive in prison, though it was meant for males. She was determined to positively face her term in jail to correct her past mistakes. She worked hard towards her new life, trying as much as possible to also impact positively on the lives of her fellow inmates through teaching her how to read and write and also helping them out with their appeals writing. She was determined to become a productive member of the society and leave behind her criminal past. Her efforts seemed to impress both the prison administrators and the prisoners themselves. After a while, she was transferred to B Dorm whose occupants were regarded with respect and honor she would also lend some of her books to her fellow prisoners which created a good relationship between them.

In conclusion, Kerman was a young lady, who got involved in criminal activities in her pursuit for adventure and self-realization. Her past eventually caught up with her and she got imprisoned. She decided to take responsibility of her actions, and use the 15 months jail term to positively transform herself and those around her. Larry, her boyfriend and her family were very supportive, and they were her biggest drive and motivation during her imprisonment. She had to adapt to a new environment, full of rules and procedures she was not accustomed to. She also demonstrated resilience and grit by moving from her criminal past and making positive plans for her future and helping her fellow inmates follow her positive trend.