Back in winter, I promised myself that I would spend every summer weekend outside. I’d go to the beach! I’d go on hikes! I’d explore new neighborhoods! But then season two of Orange is the New Black was released and an entire Friday, Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to the ladies of Litchfield.
Season two of OITNB veered away from the “inspired by real-life events” aspect of season one, but it’s important to remember that some of the actors are still representing real people. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the narrative of the show (for the record: Team Poussey and Taystee for life) and forget the real-life stories and issues that underscore the series.
To that end, we’ve put together an Orange is the New Black supplementary reading list. These 10 pieces draw attention to the reality behind Netflix’s ever-addicting hit show:
1. “A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars,” Larry Smith, The New York Times, March 25, 2010: Yes, the “real” Larry actually wrote a Modern Love piece.
2. “My Life with Piper: From Big House to Small Screen,” Larry Smith, Matter, July 15, 2014: Larry explains how his relationship became a hit television show.
3. “The Real Alex of Orange is the New Black Speaks for the First time: ‘I was Not Piper’s First, and I Certainly Did Not Seduce Her,’” Sue Carswell, Vanity Fair, August 15, 2014: Catherine Cleary Wolters has a memoir coming out next year, but in the meantime, you can read this profile on the real Alex.
4. “What are Prison Libraries Really Like?”, Adina Applebaum, The Airship, June 30, 2014: The library plays an important role in the lives of OITNB characters, but what really happens in prison libraries?
5. “The True Story Behind Orange is the New Black,” Annie Gabillet, POPSUGAR, July 16, 2014: This look at the reality behind OITNB includes the real Piper Kerman’s actual testimony.
6. “How Much Does Orange is the New Black Mirror Real Prison Life?”, Audra Schroeder, The Daily Dot, June 23, 2014: OITNB works hard to show the realities of prison life, but is it enough?
7. “The Disgusting Jail on Orange is the New Black,” Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, June 6, 2014: Litchfield isn’t real, but Riverhead correction facility, where OITNB shot its second season, sure is.
8. “Book Excerpt: Orange is the New Black,” Piper Kerman, Here and Now, July 29, 2013: If you don’t know by now, OITNB is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir. It’s not quite as thrilling as the television show (What, wou didn’t think drama was added for TV?), but it’s definitely worth reading.
9. “A Former Prisoner on What Orange Is the New Black Gets Right — And What It Doesn’t,” Jeff Smith, BuzzFeed, August 22, 2013: BuzzFeed contributor Jeff Smith shares how his time in prison compares to OITNB’s depiction.
10. “For Women, a Second Sentence,” Piper Kerman, The New York Times, August 13, 2013: Piper Kerman penned an essay last year on why prison isn’t the most effective punishment.