Study Guide

Orange Is the New Black Identity

By Piper Kerman

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Chapter 1
Piper Kerman

I was a well-educated young lady from Boston with a thirst for bohemian counterculture and no clear plan. (1.12)

Okay, great. Thanks for telling us, Piper. Do you think Piper does a good job at describing her own identity or does she leave out some key details?

I was twenty-four in 1993 and probably looked like just another anxious young professional woman. (1.2)

Piper relies on her identity as "pretty young white girl" to evade customs. No one would suspect someone like her was carrying $10k in drug cash in her suitcase.

Chapter 2

"We want [the judge] to be reminded of his own daughter or niece or neighbor when he looks at you." (2.79)

They really want to play on Piper's identity as "educated white girl" here, so they dress her in a conservative skirt suit when going before the judge. It doesn't work.

I vowed that I would never relinquish my sense of self again, to anything or anyone. (2.1)

How's that for some foreshadowing? "Sense of self" is the first thing they frisk for during the prison strip search, and they take it away.

Chapter 3

My attire made it glaringly obvious that I was new. (3.99)

Even in prison, a woman's identity can be defined by her clothes. The rags she gets when she first gets in make her stand out big time, like someone wearing shoulder pads and feathered hair would today.

Chapter 4
Piper Kerman

He pushed a red and black shoebox toward me, containing my very own pair of heavy black steel-toed shoes. […] Now I was a for-real, hardened con. I felt infinitely better. (4.13)

Piper has only been in prison for two days, so we think she's jumping the gun a bit in giving herself "hardened con" status. But hey, if the shoe (literally) fits…

With no job, no money, no possessions, no phone privileges, I was verging on a nonperson. (4.25)

As prisoners, Piper and all the inmates are pretty much all non-persons. To be a non-person inside prison makes Pipe a non-non-person. (Does that double negative actually make her a person again? No, no it doesn't.)

Chapter 8
Piper Kerman

I breathed a little easier, hoping Crazy Eyes would spread the word to the other committed lesbians that I was not "like that," even though in some other lifetime I had been. (8.30)

Piper tries to shed her lesbian past while in prison in order to keep other women at bay. Having Larry visit so often helps her cement her new identity as a heterosexual.

Chapter 9
Piper Kerman

I felt like I was pretty firmly established in the Camp's social ecology. (9.41)

Piper starts feeling pretty comfortable in the position she's secured for herself in prison by mostly keeping out of the way and helping people when she can. Because of this, she feels she's entitled to eat whatever she wants at the salad bar. These are things you have to think about in prison.

Lili was a loud-ass Bronx Puerto Rican gay-for-the-stay don't-f***-with-me piece of work. (9.66)

Identities get pretty complex in prison, and you need a lot of hyphens to describe people accurately.

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