Piper Kerman

October 19, 2021

‘Orange Is the New Black’ author Piper Kerman will speak at SIU

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Piper Kerman, author of “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” the bestselling book that became a Netflix series, is coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and free tickets for her presentation are now available.

Kerman will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 in Shryock Auditorium. Her presentation is part of the Elmer H. Johnson Criminology and Criminal Justice Lecture Series. A book signing will follow at 8:30 p.m.

Kerman is social justice advocate, author and onetime inmate

Kerman’s New York Times bestseller is a memoir of her experiences in a federal prison, where she served time for a crime she committed a decade earlier while briefly involved with the drug trade. The autobiographical volume is at times funny, heartbreaking and emotional. It explores friendships and family, mental illness, the relationships between prisoners and those who watch over them, and the difficulty of adjusting to life after prison with little help and guidance from society.

The subsequent Peabody Award-winning television series it inspired ran from 2013 to 2019, giving millions of people a look at the issues surrounding the female prison population. Kerman serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association as well as the boards of the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship, InsideOUT Writers, Healing Broken Circles and JustLeadershipUSA as she advocates for social justice, prison reform and support for people after their release from incarceration.

Kerman will share her story at SIU, as she has in venues across the country, including the White House and the U.S. Senate. She will speak about her life and journey, her book and the television series. Kerman will also share about learning from one’s own mistakes, female communities’ power, the necessity of prison reform and providing support for people after incarceration. She will also answer questions.

Admission free, get tickets online

Although there is no cost to hear Kerman and everyone is welcome, tickets must be claimed online in advance. Get tickets at https://sjps.siu.edu/.   

SIU is committed to protecting the community, so all those attending Kerman’s presentation must follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols and wear masks. A few additional measures will be taken as well in the interest of public health and safety.

These include:

  • There will be social distancing at the event, with seating capacity limited to 50% in the auditorium and Kerman unavailable for pictures with those attending the event.
  • During the book signing afterward, Kerman will sign books purchased on-site and present them to purchasers. For those who bring a book from home, she will sign a bookplate that they can affix to their book.

Sponsors of the presentation include the Criminology and Criminal Justice Program, the School of Justice and Public Safety, the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Health and Human Sciences and the Student Programming Council.

For more information about Kerman’s presentation or for disability accommodations, contact the Student Programming Council at 618-536-3393.