Long after I’d finished the first few drafts of Sister Dear, Orange is the New Black debuted on Netflix in July of 2013. The popular series is based on Piper Kerman memoir, a book that details about her experience serving time in a correctional facility for money laundering and drug trafficking.
Though the Emmy Award Winning Netflix series has, after Season One, departed far from the memoir’s storyline, quite a few similarities between Piper’s real story and Allie’s journey in Sister Dear.
Piper Kerman was born in Boston into an upper-middle class family with many attorneys, doctors, and educators.
Allie Marshall was born in Brunswick into an upper-middle class family with a veterinarian father. Shortly after the novel begins, she is accepted to medical school.
During Piper’s incarceration at FCI Danbury, a minimum-security federal prison, the facility housed only female offenders. It has since transitioned into an all-male prison with a satellite women’s campus.
During Allie’s incarceration at Lee Arrendale, the state prison also housed only female inmates. Prior to 2005, the facility was an all-male prison.
Piper Kerman was 24 and a new graduate of Smith College when she smuggled a suitcase of drug money across international borders.
Allie Marshall was 26 and accepted to medical school at Emory University when she stumbled on the dying coach.
Piper had a quiet, law-abiding life in New York, so her sudden and unexpected indictment seriously disrupts her relationships with her fiancé, family, and friends.
Despite the top-notch attorney she could hire, despite the support of her parents, her boyfriend, and despite the fact that she had lived an exemplary life in the meantime, Piper was still sentenced to 15 months of incarceration.
Like Piper, Allie had also led an exemplary life. Despite hiring the best attorney her family could find, and despite the support of her parents and sister, Allie was still sentenced to prison.
Throughout her time at Danbury, Piper has the unfailing support of her boyfriend (now husband) Larry, who comes to visit her every week at Danbury.
In both Piper’s memoir and Allie’s story, the majority of the prison characters are in jail for offenses related to narcotics, fraud, larceny, homicide, and aggravated assault.
In the memoir, Orange is the New Black, Piper is quoted as saying “during those 11 months in prison in Danbury, I had found my way, in terms of the social ecology of the place. I had found my friends. I had figured out who my adversaries were. I had my prison job. You have your rituals which help you do your time.”
Allie also found her way in Lee Arrendale Prison, identified her adversaries, created rituals, and learned the social ecology of the facility. By doing so, she learned to survive.
Piper lives through prison to return to Larry.
Larry never chastises Piper for her crime. He doesn’t suggest that Piper had ruined her life — and his, too. He tells Piper, “It will all work out. Because I love you.”
Like Larry, Ben echoes a similar sentiment to Allie. Ben tells her, “I will spend every day, every waking moment, making you happy. I don’t care about the past. I love you, and that’s for always.”
Are you an Orange is the New Black fan? What do you love most about the series? What did you really enjoy or dislike in reading Piper’s memoir?
Any other similarities or differences between OITNB and Sister Dear that I should have included?