Study Guide

Orange Is the New Black Family

By Piper Kerman

Family

Chapter 1
Piper Kerman

My family was proud and beaming as I took my degree. (1.9)

Why does Kerman show us how proud her family is of her accomplishments? So she can contrast this with how disappointed they are in her later when she squanders everything she's worked for.

I was lying to my family about every aspect of my life and growing sick and tired of my adopted drug "family." (1.58)

Many people turn to drugs and gangs because their own family stinks, so they find support in other social circles. Piper is the opposite. At least she has a real family to go back to, unlike many others in her shoes.

Chapter 4
Piper Kerman

I felt more guilt and shame witnessing their worry than when I stood in front of the judge. (4.56)

Letting down her family is the hardest thing for Piper. If she could serve extra time to avoid having to tell her parents, she probably would.

Chapter 7

Pop's grown children came to visit her every week. (7.18)

Sometimes it feels like Piper is the only person in prison with a support group, so it's nice to see that other prisoners have family members who visit them regularly, too.

Chapter 9

Motherhood in prison as revered but also complicated by separation, guilt, and shame. (9.4)

If Piper felt bad disappointing her own parents, imagine how these women must feel to have disappointed their own children.

Some women organized themselves into somewhat formalized "family" relationships with other prisoners, especially mother-daughter pairs. (9.2)

You've got to work with what's available to you, and the relationships between the women in prison are sometimes supportive and maternal.

The single most reliable way to get another prisoner to smile was to ask her about her children. (9.8)

Probably the only thing keeping these women going is the knowledge that someday they'll be out and they'll get to see their kids again.

Chapter 11

I wondered if the prison staff connected the miseries of their chosen profession with the miseries of their prisoners' children. (11.86)

Sometimes prison is a sad family affair—one prisoner tells Piper that even her mother was in Danbury. We're not sure why Piper cares what the guards think about this, but she does. Do they have a pool or something, betting on which women's children they'll see next?

Chapter 14
Piper Kerman

"My future in-laws are coming to see me… without Larry!" (14.36)

Piper is panicked, but Larry's parents end up being just as understanding and supportive as her own. They make her feel like a part of their family, even though she's behind bars.

Chapter 15
Piper Kerman

I hoped my grandmother would approve, and maybe forgive me, when I could not attend her suffering. (15.102)

One of the saddest moments for Kerman is when her grandmother dies while she's in prison. Unlike on the show, Kerman isn't able to get furlough. Prison officials don't care too much for their prisoners' family matters.