Piper Kerman, award-winning author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, will speak at the University of Redlands on Feb. 19, 2015 at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel on campus as part of the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) Convocations and Lectures Series.
In the memoir, which was adapted into an original Netflix series of the same name and recently won a Peabody Award, Kerman recounts the year that she spent in the Danbury Correctional Facility for a crime she had committed 10 years prior as a very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking.
Compelling, moving, and often hilarious, the stories of the women Kerman met while in prison raise issues of friendship and family, mental illness, the odd cliques and codes of behavior, the role of religion, the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailor, and the almost complete lack of guidance for life after prison.
"ASUR Convocations and Lectures chose to bring Piper Kerman as she is a name that students and the larger community will recognize both from her book and the very popular Netflix series, Orange Is The New Black," said Denise Davis, director of leadership and involvement. "Beyond this, she serves as a great example of someone compelled to use her life experiences to highlight injustice and work on behalf of prison reform."
Davis said she hopes the audience walks away from Kerman's talk with a clearer perspective on the struggles within the American justice system and what can be done in the way of advocacy. "I imagine the talk will be enlightening, especially given her grit, resiliency and sheer determination to make the difficult situation she found herself in meaningful beyond than just for herself."
While on campus, Kerman will visit a classroom comprised of students from Professor Sawa Kurotani's and Professor Bill Rocque's sociology/anthropology courses. All of the students will have read Orange Is the New Black. "This is a very special opportunity for the students to deepen their understanding of concepts that Kerman presents in her book and ask her questions in a more personal venue," Davis said.
Kerman is a frequently invited speaker to students of law, criminology, gender and women's studies, sociology, and creative writing, and also to groups that include the American Correctional Association's Disproportionate Minority Confinement Task Force, federal probation officers, public defenders, justice reform advocates and volunteers, book clubs, and formerly and currently incarcerated people. She serves on the board of the Women's Prison Association, and has been called as a witness by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to testify on solitary confinement and women prisoners. She has spoken at the White House on re-entry and employment.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the departments of Visual and Media Studies, Sociology and Anthropology.