‘Orange Is the New Black’ Author Hints At New Season, Talks Reform, On Way To STL
Will Piper get back with Larry? Will Alex return to Litchfield Prison? If she does, will Piper be able to resist her charming nemesis?
“Orange Is the New Black” author Piper Kerman answered one of these questions and hinted at another in an interview, prior to her upcoming St. Louis appearances at Lindenwood University next Tuesday, Sept. 9 and Maryville University next Wednesday and Thursday, co-sponsored by Left Bank Books.
Kerman’s memoir, about her time in a women’s prison in Connecticut and the drug-trafficking charge that landed her there, inspired the Netflix comedy-drama. It was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards but took home just one: Outstanding Guest Actress Uzo Aduba for her role as Crazy Eyes.
"There really was a person called Crazy Eyes," Kerman noted, both in prison and in the book.
But she’s quick to point out the show’s an adaptation. Many other names are changed — including her last name, to Chapman — and numerous experiences are fabricated.
But in an interview, Kerman said the show’s creator Jenji Kohan — also the brains behind “Weeds” — is successfully shining a light on bigger truths — about prison life. That’s the reason Kerman wrote “Orange.”
“I believed that by talking about my own experience and my own stories, that people might pick up a book about prisons that might not otherwise pick up a book about prisons,” Kerman said.
Too many non-violent offenders are in prison, Kerman said. And upon release, there is no assistance in returning to society after what she said is a traumatic experience. She was lucky, though, she said. Unlike most of her inmate friends, Kerman had the support of friends and family. Later, she had stability welcoming her on the outside.
“I had a fiancée who was waiting for me with open arms. I had a job waiting for me. I started work the week after I came home from prison,” she said.
Bad Choices and Prison Cheesecake
Kerman wasn’t a typical prisoner. She’s an upper middle-class graduate of Smith College. But during a brief period between graduation and her corporate communications career, she was involved in drug trafficking, and with a woman known as Alex in the series.
But it was 10 years and a fiancée named Larry later that she was charged and sentenced to 15 months. Behind bars, she was immersed into a new world of powerlessness and foul food but also friendship and enlightenment. As a book and a TV series, “Orange Is the New Black” is both poignant and funny.
“Laughter is a survival tool. And you need that when trying to survive prison sentence,” Kerman said.
Kerman is an executive consultant to the show. She has little decision-making power but she does have input. Right now, she’s assisting Kohan and the writers with season three. No real spoilers ahead, but Kerman did spill a few beans when asked if Alex will come back to Litchfield after some time on the outside.
“Oh, yes!” Kerman answered, quickly adding, “Well, she’s in season three and she’ll be in every episode of season three.”
Kerman didn’t indicate whether Piper and Alex, her ex-girlfriend and drug-trade partner-in-crime, would resume their relationship. But she did say that Piper hasn’t learned how to stay out of trouble.
“Piper Chapman’s future is always in question because she makes so many bad decisions, and I say that as someone who has made many bad decisions, obviously, myself,” Kerman said.
No word on Larry, except that Kerman and the real Larry (Smith) have been married for eight years and have a child and live in New York.
In a real home, with a real kitchen. Something she only dreamed about in prison. Behind bars, you have to improvise when it comes to supplementing the chow-line mush. There, Kerman learned to make a mean “cheesecake” with available ingredients.
1 six-oz. package of Graham Crackers, Vanilla Wafers or Oreos
4-6 pats of margarine
1 round of Laughing Cow cheese (8 wedges)
4 cups of vanilla pudding
6 oz. of Coffee Mate
1/2 c. lemon juice (more to taste)
Steal the margarine from the dining hall, melt in microwave and crumble cookies into a 1-quart Tupperware dish that you've bought from the commissary or borrowed from your bunkie along with the margarine. Mix well and press firmly into the bottom of the dish. Place in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Your crust is done.
In a separate dish, squash Laughing Cow cheese into as smooth a mass as possible. Mix in part of the lemon juice and continue to blend. Try to work out the lumps. Mix in pudding and continue to blend, add more lemon juice to taste. Blend until filling is as creamy as possible, then gradually mix in Coffee Mate. Some people double the Coffee Mate; this seems overboard to me. When mixture is smooth & thick, pour over the crust. Chill in your plastic washbucket filled with ice under your bed (or in a refrigerator if the part of the prison where you work has one you can slip it into), for at least 4 hours. Eat.
Piper Kerman Appearances
Where: J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, Lindenwood University, 209 S. Kingshighway, St. Charles, 63301
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9
How much: Free
Information: Lindendwood website
Where: Maryville University Auditorium, 650 Maryville University Drive, 63141
When: 7 pm. Wednesday, Sept. 10; 12:15 pm. Thursday, Sept. 11
Information: Maryville website
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL