The riveting Netflix original series “
Orange is the New Black” about a waspy New Yorker sent to prison for a 10-year-old drug offence has one very salacious plot twist.
Piper Chapman has to do time with the drug dealer ex-girlfriend who put her behind bars. (It’s really awkward at first, and then they hook up in the prison chapel.)
While that plot development seems highly unlikely, the woman whose memoir of the same name inspired the series did actually run into her drug-dealing, bad-influence ex-girlfriend Nora behind bars.
“I was crossing the unit to return my tray when I saw Nora headed toward me. I squared my shoulders and adopted my most arctic ice-queen stare,” Piper Kerman writes in her memoir. “As we passed, she looked at me uncertainly.”
Kerman, a women’s college grad and a self-described ex-lesbian, spent a year at the minimum-security prison in Danbury, Conn. back in 2004. 10 years prior to that, she carried a suitcase of drug money for a lover she calls Nora Jansen (not her real name). Like her fictionalized alter ego, Kerman was pretty sure it was Jansen who turned her in several years after her crime.
Unlike the Netflix show, Kerman didn’t actually encounter Jansen at Danbury.
But she did run into her close to the end of her sentence at a different facility where she was temporarily housed, according to the memoir. They were both called to testify against a guy who participated in their drug conspiracy at a trial in Chicago.
In order to do so, they both had to fly on “ConAir” to a facility in Oklahoma City before being transported to a federal jail in Chicago. It was there that Kerman spotted her short, raspy-voiced ex-girlfriend, “looking like Hell.” Kerman didn’t say a word to her — not even when they had to sit next to each other on the convict plane to Chicago.
Chicago’s federal jail was so awful, however, that the two women bonded.
Jansen claimed she didn’t rat out Kerman. While Kerman knew that could be a lie, she had some sympathy for her ex who was doing a lot more time than she was. She jokingly threatened to drown Jansen in the toilet, which was just part of the “feisty rapport” they’d developed as friends, Kerman writes.
“The things that I’d liked about her over a decade earlier — her humour, her curiosity, her hustle, her interest in the weird and transgressive — all of those things were still true,” Kerman writes. “In fact, they had been sharpened by her years in a high-security prison in California.”
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