Author Piper Kerman, whose memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in Women’s Prison inspired the award-winning Netflix television series of the same name, will deliver the annual Alex Krieger ’95 Memorial Lecture at Vassar College.
The event, “Orange is the New Black: An Evening with Piper Kerman” will include a question and answer session and a book signing following the talk. This event will take place on Tuesday, February 9, 8:00pm, on the second floor of the Students’ Building and it is free and open to the public.
Kerman spent thirteen months in a federal women’s correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut on money laundering charges following a brief dalliance into the world of drug trafficking ten years earlier. The book explores the experience of incarceration and the lives of the women she met while in prison, including their friendships, families, mental illnesses substance abuse issues and codes of behavior. She says what has stuck with her most from the experience is “the incredible ability of women to step up for each other and to be resilient and to share their resiliency with other people.”
The experience of being incarcerated not only inspired her memoir, but also her subsequent activism. Kerman serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association, an organization that provides preventative services for at-risk women, works to create alternatives to incarceration, advocates against practices like shackling during childbirth, and also offers programs to assist with reentry into society. Additionally, Kerman has worked on a number of other criminal justice issues, including juvenile justice reform and the legal challenge to New York’s “stop and frisk” laws.
A frequent guest speaker at universities, libraries and conferences, Kerman was called as a witness by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Right and Human Right to testify on solitary confinement and women prisoners. In 2015 she was honored with Harvard University’s Humanist Heroine Award.
ABOUT THE ALEX KRIEGER ’95 MEMORIAL LECTURE
This annual lecture series is given in memory of a Vassar student, Alex Krieger, who was killed in an automobile accident during the spring of his freshman year. One of Krieger’s keenest interests was distinguished American writing that incorporates humor as a primary element. In consultation with his family, Vassar has invited outstanding American writers and humorists to deliver the annual speech, including Tom Wolfe, Wendy Wasserstein, John Irving, P. J. O’Rourke, Calvin Trillin, Jules Fieffer, Oliver Sacks, Tony Kushner, David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Sarah Vowell, Gail Collins, Augusten Burroughs, Frank Rich, Ira Glass, Andy Borowitz, Mo Rocca, Gary Shteyngart, and, most recently, George Saunders.
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