25 Books To Read If You Love 'Orange Is The New Black'
After the premiere of Orange Is the New Black 's Season 4 trailer, fans are all hyped up for their return to Litchfield. With the June 17 release date so far away, we're all looking for ways to occupy our time until the show returns. Fear not, my fellow viewers, I've got just the thing: a list of books to read if you love Orange Is the New Black .
I'm going to go ahead and assume that you've already read Piper Kerman's memoir, which formed the basis for what would become Jenji Kohan's hit Netflix series. If you haven't, well, consider it Book No. 0 on this list.
For many people, Orange Is the New Black was an eye-opening look at the problems of the American prison system. In the wake of the series' success, Kerman has testified before Congress about prison reform. It's likely — although not yet documented — that OITNB will generate awareness and sympathy for the daily struggles of incarcerated women, and may even rally support for prison reform movements.
This list features young adult novels, memoirs, and non-fiction titles. Although the bulk of its focus has been placed on the lives of women in U.S. prisons, some of the books here feature perspectives on juvenile detention, men's prisons, and foreign jails. One or two others do not take place within traditional prisons at all.
These are the books to read if you love Orange Is the New Black.
1. Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
How does a person with no criminal justice background come to work in a prison? Through the library, of course! In Running the Books, Avi Steinberg recalls the laughter and tears that came with his unlikely position as a prison librarian.
2. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
In the 1960s, "promiscuous" teen Susanna Kaysen found herself in a lock-up at McLean Hospital. For the next two years, she spent her time hushed away from the mainstream and high societies of her friends and parents, in psychiatric treatment at one of the country's most expensive facilities.
3. A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars by Cristina Rathbone
A World Apart is the result of two legal battles between author Cristina Rathbone and the officials of MCI-Framingham, a Massachusetts women's prison. These are the heartbreaking stories of the prison's inmates, most of whom have lost years of their lives to non-violent offenses.
4. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Random Family revolves around two young couples: Jessica, Boy George, Coco, and Cesar. One deals heroin, another aspires to greatness in the criminal underworld, and all four are in grave danger of imploding.
5. Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women's Prisons, edited by Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman
The stories in Inside This Place, Not of It belong to women who have endured abuse both inside and outside of the prison system. Some are still incarcerated, while others have made lives for themselves in the aftermath of their imprisonment.
6. An American Radical: A Political Prisoner in My Own Country by Susan Rosenberg
Pardoned in 2001 after serving 16 years for possession of weapons and explosives, activist Susan Rosenberg turned her attention from communist idealism to the living conditions of women in the American prison system.
7. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
After her mother goes to prison for murdering an ex-lover, Astrid finds herself thrown into the tumultuous foster care system, where she must fend for herself for the first time in her life.
8. Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis
It's difficult to imagine a world without prisons, but that's because we aren't trying hard enough. In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Y. Davis offers a thoughtful plan to help the U.S. kick the prison industrial habit.
9. Out of Orange: A Memoir by Cleary Wolters
Orange Is the New Black fans know that the pragmatic Alex Vause is one of the show's most compelling characters. Now the "woman behind the glasses" has written her own memoir, Out of Orange , to tell her side of the story.
10. Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock
Did you know that, in some parts of the U.S., transwomen can be charged with prostitution just for carrying condoms in their purses? Queer (In)Justice examines how sexuality and gender expression affect the treatment of suspects and criminals in the U.S.
11. Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman
Shavonne has spent most of her young adulthood in juvenile detention centers. As she approaches her 18th birthday, she begins to wonder what she'll do with her life once she's on the other side.
12. Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith
Orange Is the New Black fans have seen some of the problems Sophia Burset faces as a transwoman in prison, but her character's experience is far removed from the plight of most transgender inmates. Captive Genders takes a look at the myriad intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and ability in the prison system.
13. Memoirs from the Women's Prison by Nawal El Saadawi
The former Director of Health and Education in Cairo, Nawal El Saadawi became a political prisoner under President Anwar Sadat. In Memoirs from the Women's Prison, Saadawi examines how inmates on opposite ends of the political spectrum forged alliances in order to improve their living conditions and survive.
14. Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women by Victoria Law
After a fellow prisoner was beaten, the inmates of New York's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women staged a coup, overthrew the guards, and demanded change. That was 1974. More than 40 years later, their story is still relatively unknown.
15. Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison by T.J. Parsell
As a teenager, T.J. Parsell used a toy gun to rob a store. Sent to a men's penitentiary, Parsell was drugged, raped, and traded by his fellow inmates for the next four years.
16. Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation by Beth E. Richie
In Arrested Justice, author Beth E. Richie explores the intersection of violence against women and race, and how our country's treatment of this complicated issue affects black women within the prison industrial complex.
17. The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope Perez
Azael wakes up in a prison cell with only a dim memory of the night before. There was a fight, and now he's here, forced to watch a video feed of a girl he doesn't know while he awaits his sentencing.
18. The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care by Nina Bernstein
Shirley Wilder spent her teen years without a proper home, thanks to draconian laws that allowed foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of religion. Raped, abused, and neglected by the system designed to protect her, Shirley fought back with a lawsuit that would not be settled until after her death.
19. Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution by Wally Lamb
Author Wally Lamb teaches a writing class for women prisoners of Connecticut's York Correctional Institution. Couldn't Keep It to Myself is a collection of their stories.
20. Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett by Jennifer Gonnerman
Elaine Bartlett spent 16 years imprisoned for her first drug offense. When she received a pardon in 2000, she had no money and nowhere to go. In Life on the Outside, Jennifer Gonnerman examines Bartlett's post-prison experiences, from attempts to reconnect with her family to campaigning for sentencing reform.
21. Juvie by Steve Watkins
When sisters Sadie and Carla wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sadie must take the fall in order to keep her party animal sister out of jail. Expecting a light punishment, she's sentenced to spend six months in juvenile detention instead.
22. Women in Prison: Inside the Concrete Womb by Kathryn Watterson
Based on interviews with hundreds of female inmates, Kathryn Watterson's Women in Prison exposes the grim realities of how women wind up behind bars, what they experience on the inside, and what they can expect from post-release life.
23. I'll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison, edited by Wally Lamb
The sequel, of sorts, to Lamb's Couldn't Keep It to Myself, I'll Fly Away is a second installment of stories from women incarcerated in their state's only maximum-security prison.
24. 8 Ball Chicks by Gini Sikes
We often romanticize female gang members as neglected girls who are desperate for love. According to Gini Sikes' 8 Ball Chicks, however, the girls in the gang are often just as deadly as their male counterparts.
25. Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Serving the second year of his drug-related sentence at a juvenile detention center, 14-year-old Reese wants nothing more than to find a way out of the vicious cycle that leads to adult prison. However, the decision to stand up for another boy might have sealed his fate.