Study Guide

Orange Is the New Black Identity

By Piper Kerman

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It seems to be human nature to try to label people when you meet them. It's a way of piecing together their identity, which is made up of tons of parts: gender, job, family role, etc. But do you ever meet someone and think, ex-con? Unless they're covered in prison tattoos, probably not. And even if they are inked from head to toe, maybe they just really like body art.

If you were to meet Piper Kerman—author and main girl in Orange is the New Black—on the street, you might think woman, wife, and mother, but you probably wouldn't add prisoner to that list. She wouldn't have either, until she ended up in prison, a place she never thought she'd be. Now that she's been behind bars, though, it's a part of her identity forever.

Questions About Identity

  1. Why isn't Piper satisfied with her life when she graduates college? Why does she decide to redefine herself in the way she does?
  2. Why does Piper think she's different than everyone else? What marks the moment when Piper finally identifies herself as a convict?
  3. How do the women Piper meets define themselves in prison? (It's not like they can customize their wardrobe…)

Chew on This

Piper's decision to define her identity by helping someone deal drugs lands her a new identity later in life: convicted felon.

Orange is the New Black challenges stereotypes of people in prison. They don't have to be poor, or a minority—all they have to be are people who commit crimes.

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