'OITNB' Takes License With Piper Kerman's Book

by Keertana Sastry

Our prison family is back! Orange Is The New Black is now streaming its entire Season 2 on Netflix and we couldn't be more excited to see Piper and the gang again. While many aspects of Season 2 will be quite different than Season 1, the characters are back and bigger than ever, with more drama than ever. Some of the crazy stuff that happens on OITNB feels so insane at times but most of it is based in reality. The real Piper — Piper Kerman in real life, rather than Piper Chapman — released her memoir in 2010 and provided us all with a real and gritty look inside women's prison life. So can we all hope to meet the real Crazy Eyes or Red out on the street one day? Not exactly. The real Piper and the writers of the show did have to fudge a few details and make up entirely new people for the sake of entertainment. It is a television show after all.

Which Characters Are From The Book?

  • Rejoice! Sophia is real and was in Kerman's book. In the book, Sophia's name is Vanessa — though all of the names were changed —and she lived right next door to Kerman until she was released. Vanessa and Sophia from the show are quite different but Kerman told The Huffington Post that she was happy the writers included a trans character.
  • Miss Claudette is also a character in the book, but we never really learn much about her or her crime. Same goes for Daya. Other than being known as one of the young Latina girls in the prison, we don't get the beautiful backstory we get from the series. We don't even get her name.
  • Alex is also a real person but while the show gives us some great angry and romantic moments between Alex and Piper, in the book they became friends, but nothing more. In fact, the two women were only in prison at the same time for about five weeks.
  • Lo and behold: Larry is real, though maybe not as annoying at times as he is portrayed in the show. The real Larry Smith, a writer with whom the real Kerman is still involved, was much more supportive and successful in the memoir than in the show. Sorry, Jason Biggs.
  • Kerman did actually insult Red (or Pop as she's called in the book) and her cooking on her first days in prison, but thankfully the tampon sandwich was pure fiction. In fact, other than getting some icy glares from Pop, nothing much happened.
  • While Pennsatucky is also a real character from the prison, she is absolutely nothing like her character on the show. Piper barely interacted with her at all. No bloody brawls here, folks.
  • And the answer to the question we've all been wondering: Yes, Crazy Eyes is real and yes she still has that stare. But no, she's not nearly as prominent in the book.

Which Characters are Completely Fictional?

For one, the late Tricia (RIP) was not in Kerman's novel. According to the author, the Orange is the New Black writers created Tricia's character, but she was a creation based on many women Kerman did meet in prison.

How Long Was The Real Piper In Prison?

Throughout her stay, Piper was still the good girl we all knew from the first half of OITNB's Season 1. She did her time and got out with no real complaints or behavioral issues. But that's not going to fly on a television show. So the series smartly gave her some dramatic moments and surrounded her with some big personalities to let the tensions fly.

But we all knew this to some extent, right? There's no way one woman's journey had enough craziness to support an entire season of a series, let alone two.

Images: Netflix (3)