Pop Culture Advisory: Orange Is the New Black

While Netflix’s latest original series, Orange Is the New Black, isn’t itself available to libraries, it’s getting the kind of critical and word-of-mouth buzz that ensures patrons will be interested in related work. Ostensibly the story of a 30-something upper-middle-class white woman (Taylor Schilling) who goes to prison because of her involvement with a drug dealer (Laura Prepon) a decade earlier, the series is notable for featuring numerous richly developed female characters of all ages, races, sexual preferences, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Watch the trailer here (please note: the video contains both mild plot spoilers and strong language):

But the beautiful opening credits, which feature Regina Spektor‘s You’ve Got Time, are both G-rated and spoiler free:

The most natural recommendation for Orange fans is Piper Kernan’s memoir of the same name, on which the show is loosely based, either in print or audio:

Other prison memoirs include Erin George’s A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women, Rusty Young’s Marching Powder,¬†and Jack Black’s classic tale of hobo life in the early 20th century, You Can’t Win. (The latter two come recommended by Natasha Lyonne, who bought copies for her fellow Orange cast members before they started filming.)

Cristina Rathbone’s A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars examines all aspects of prison culture through interviews and observation at a women’s prison outside Boston.

British television show Bad Girls was set at a London-area women’s prison, Larkhall, and ran for eight seasons. Australia’s Prisoner followed the inmates and staff at a women’s prison in Wentworth, Australia; it aired in the States and the UK as Prisoner: Cell Block H.

And it would be hard to consider the subject of women in prison without throwing a few campy exploitation films into the mix. Chained Heat (1983) stars The Exorcist’s Linda Blair, all grown up and getting in trouble. Jungle-set The Hot Box (1972) was produced by Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman. And in Women in Cell Block 7 (1973), Anita Strindberg goes undercover in prison to save her mafioso father’s life.

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.


  1. Nanette says:

    The audiobook version of Orange is the New Black is really, really good. I listened to it in the car last winter, and it made me look forward to long car rides!