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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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