Piper Kerman’s Resistance Reading

Authors pick books that bring solace and understanding in an age of rancor.


We asked a range of authors and creative types to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. More than two dozen responded. Here are picks from the activist, author, and former felon Piper Kerman, whose best-selling memoir about her year in a federal women’s prison was adapted into a popular Netflix series.

 

Latest book: Orange Is the New Black
Reading recommendations: I don’t turn to reading for solace often—I’m probably more reliant on wine and thumb-sucking for that. I’ve been teaching in a men’s medium-security prison for a couple of years and reading Hannah Arendt. I really wanted an analysis of the issues that lodge there from a female perspective. For this moment we’re all navigating, I’d recommend Men in Dark Times.

When I read Jesmyn Ward‘s Men We Reaped, it absolutely gutted me. I return to it again and again in my mind because it so perfectly crystallizes what’s at stake until we establish equality for all Americans when it comes to safety and freedom. Ward’s writing is heartbreakingly beautiful.

The book that actually does provide me with solace is Alice in Wonderland. When I was a child I wanted to change my name to Alice. I had a copy in my locker when I was incarcerated, and one on my bedside table now.

Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
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The complete series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Mohsin Hamid, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibbenRabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Joe Romm, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet WaldmanJesmyn Ward, and Gene Luen Yang.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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