Good day, friends! As you know, my dear friend Téa has joined our “Book Club”. Here’s her first review. Thanks, Téa! Enjoy!
Last week I ‘christened’ my brand new Kobo. In an attempt to just once read a book BEFORE seeing it’s TV/movie adaptation, I downloaded Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman.
As many know from the popular Netflix show of the same name, the story is a memoir that recounts the year the author spent in prison. Involved with a girlfriend who was dealing drugs for an African kingpin, Kerman assisted them in money laundering. A decade later she was sentenced to 15 months in a federal correctional institution.
Expecting to be equally fascinated and horrified by what one might endure in the harsh, rigid environment of a prison, I was surprised by the real revelation of this story. In the midst of a group of women from vastly different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, Kerman found a community of women offering compassion, guidance and generosity.
The author describes being greeted on her first day by a self-organized “welcome wagon” of women who provided her with a few comforts (shower shoes, toothpaste), words of reassurance and lessons on how to survive in prison. Over the subsequent days and months she becomes part of a ‘family’ within the prison walls from which she receives continued companionship, protection and hope. This experience enlightens her to the importance (and mutual benefits) of being able to relate well to others in any environment.
This message seemed to be in sharp contrast with Sheryl Sandberg’s observations of how female colleagues relate to one another in her new book Lean In. She suggests that senior leadership roles are still elusive to women in our society in part because not enough women are supporting each other in the workplace. Instead of helping each other to advance and excel in our careers we’re holding ourselves back through lack of mutual support.
If the women that Piper Kerman met in prison are able to offer comfort and counsel to each other during such a dark time in their own personal lives, then surely the rest of us can also look past our own insecurities and the stereotypes of ambitious women to find a way to help each other achieve our career goals. Especially if Madeleine Albright is right and there really is “…a special place in hell for woman who don’t help other women”.