Browsing the Shelves of the Orange is the New Black Library
[Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash]
We don’t know about you, but for the last four seasons, Orange is the New Black has doubled as both excellent television and an extension of our TBR. Each episode is packed with literary references and character-specific reading material. Season five is out now and we're loving it. If you haven't watched the newest season yet (or even if you have), we’re reliving our favorite books of the series – revealing our secret wish to become best friends with the Orange is the New Black writers’ room.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Taystee set the tone in season one by declaring her love of books early on. During a library shift, Taystee stops a fellow inmate from ruining Litchfield’s copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Her librarian senses are practiced and infallible; she knows this inmate is looking for a few extra inches of height, not an exciting journey through the world of the Triwizard Tournament. She offers up an equally thick volume in exchange: Ulysses by James Joyce. “Everyone says it’s so genius, but I call it bullshit,” Taystee confides. And we agree; we’re on Team Harry Potter too.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Vee had some pretty questionable morals and motivations throughout season two, but one of our favorite things about Orange is the New Black is how multi-dimensional each character is – especially when they’re villians. Vee shows support for fellow inmate Rosa by sharing The Fault in Our Stars with her. Rosa has been going through chemo for as long as the OITNB audience has known her, but this intimate moment between friends is equal parts touching and biting. In a moment that John Green advertised on Tumblr as the “HIGHLIGHT OF [HIS] LIFE,” Vee recommends that Rosa read the book. “It’s about kids with cancer. I don’t know why the sick **** wanted to write about this. Anyway, I thought it might be right up your alley.” A+ hand selling, Vee.
The End of Men by Hanna Rosin
During a blackout in season two, corrections officer Sam Healy has a conversation with Pennsatuckey in his office about the “lesbian agenda.” He presents his current reading material: The End of Men by Hanna Rosin. Rather than reading Rosin’s nonfiction as an account of sexual politics and a debunking of the myth that men as a gender are somehow superior, Healy interprets the book as a threat to his very livelihood. In turn, Healy warns Pennsatuckey to be wary of “the lesbians” and their apparent scheme for world domination. It’s homophobic to say the least. “No offense,” she responds, “but men being in charge hasn’t ever done me any good.” Preach, Pennsatuckey!
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
When a bedbug infestation forces the prison library to be destroyed, only the more privileged inmates are allotted reading materials – pristine paperbacks shipped in from the outside world by loved ones. Never without a book, Red is spotted reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, a suspenseful novel about primate animal testing and behavioral psychology. For OITNB fans who’ve read the novel, it’s a fun juxtaposition to hear Red talk about what she calls her “criminal mastermind” – a plan to expand the illegal underwear business her roommate Chapman is covertly running – while reading about nefarious dealings of a different shade. It takes us twice as long to watch Red’s scenes because we’re constantly pausing Netflix to jot down her latest read. We’d love to be in her book club.
Bad Kid by David Crabb
After a particularly personal and racially charged confrontation with her girlfriend, Poussey Washington is seen consoling herself with a copy of David Crabb’s memoir Bad Kid. While Crabb’s writing examines growing up goth and gay in Texas, Poussey Washington could conceivably pen a companion piece to this 2015 memoir. There’s certainly a lot to mine from Washington’s own childhood, growing up a nomadic lesbian army brat fluent in more languages than your average diplomat. We love you, Poussey.