Piper After Prison

When Netflix released Orange Is the New Black, women across America collectively exhaled. We didn't know we'd been holding our breath, waiting for a TV series to portray real women. But, suddenly, faced with a rich gumbo of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, mental stability, gender identity, social ticks, and body types, we sucked in the stories unfolding within the show's minimum security prison: the stern, enigmatic Haitian woman who had been sold into the U.S. labor market as a child; the transgender hairdresser who did not give up loving her wife when she gave up being a man; the young Latina serving time with her mom; the meth head made into a martyr by the Pro Life movement for killing an abortion clinic nurse. Although Piper, the show's protagonist, is thin, blond, and privileged, she is not its star. The star is verisimilitude. Truth, they say, is in the details — like using maxipads to clean the cell room floor — but Piper Kerman, author of the germinal memoir, teaches us that compassion and laughter are also honest. Kerman is now a tireless advocate for prison reform and serves on the board of the Women's Prison Association.

Mon., March 31, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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