People are usually excited to listen to someone else’s story, whether it’s a love story or a horrible one. They want to know every detail. As weird and as bad as it sounds, people are also incredibly interested in other people’s disgraces and tragedies. It’s just human curiosity, wanting to get a sense of that which is unknown. This particular interest could be what made Piper Kerman’s memoir “Orange is the New Black” a bestseller and, later on, one of the most popular TV shows on Netflix.
I have never watched the show, but when I was told Piper Kerman was coming to speak about her experience in prison and about justice reform, I immediately went to get a ticket. Why? Curiosity. I wanted to understand her story. I wanted to see the impact she caused for other people, the impact she could cause for me.
At Kerman’s lecture, everyone around me was so excited. I had people sitting behind me who could not believe Piper Kerman was actually here giving a talk. I heard people whisper how she is an inspiration and how she is one of the people that will give a grain of sand to create change in the world.
In front of me was a convict. She lived in prison for 13 months. She committed a crime, she did something illegal, and still, I could not feel a difference between her and me. I was not scared of her and I did not find her threatening. I even admire the way she told her story.
I admire the way she reconstructed her life, how she was able to make close friends with whom she still talks today, how she was able to remain sane. I admire her work now, how she goes to different places and shares her story and world statistics, how she creates awareness. I admire how she could get out of prison, work as a communications consultant and work so hard with prison reform so that inmates’ basic rights are not violated in prison.
In her lecture, Kerman said, “The experience of prison is very deeply truly traumatic,” but she still managed to find a way to survive and cope with her situation.
Kerman said that when someone goes to prison they receive a number. In her case, she was number 11187-424. I can barely imagine how hideous it must be to trade your identity with a number, how you can transform from being a person to being an object, from having a name to having a sort of barcode.
Kerman also said that the United States has the world’s biggest prison population: As of now, there are 2.2 million people in prison, meaning there are 2.2 million people who have lost their identities and who are now serial numbers until they are set free.
Kerman’s lecture brought a lot of awareness. She shared incredibly important information with her audience, she let people ask questions and then she signed books and took pictures with her audience. After the lecture and the question and answer forum, people were still curious.
As the line for the book signing grew, people thought of more questions to ask Kerman, and she answered them all. She proved herself to be worthy of her Humanist Heroine of the Year award, and I got to understand why so many people look up to her.