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3 Female Memoirists: Kerman, Gilbert, & Strayed, or, Why They All Gotta Be Blonde?

3 Female Memoirists:  Kerman, Gilbert, & Strayed, or, Why They All Gotta Be Blonde?

*My interview with Tawni Waters was reposted here on the San Miguel Writers Conference website!*

Recently my boyfriend became obsessed with Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was the inspiration for the Netflix original series of the same name. After Paul and I binge-watched the entire first season of Orange is the New Black, he binge-read the memoir and then strongly encouraged me to read it, too.

I finished the book last night, and I have to say it’s pretty good. Kerman has a strong voice, funny observations, and wise insights. In fact, I was reminded of two other memoirs written by strong, funny, wise women: Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The similarities of these three women are striking.  They are all so honest, so likable, so intelligent.  But what I keep wondering is this:  why they all gotta be blonde? Is it true that blondes have more fun?  Were Kerman, Gilbert, and Stayed’s adventures made possible, at least in some tiny part, by their Aryan looks?  In all three books, the women certainly get extra attention because of their hair.  Perhaps because all three went to places (prison, wilderness hiking, and India) where pretty blonde women are not the norm.

Ultimately, I’ve decided the blonde thing is probably a coincidence.  What the women really have in common is their intelligence, their bravery, and their work ethic.  They all happen to be educated, independent women with a taste for adventure and the discipline to sit down and write about it.  The new season of Orange is the New Black releases this June, and the movie version of Wild will be out some time this year, and so to celebrate, I present to you the eerie similarities of THREE FEMALE MEMOIRISTS: 

 

PIPER KERMAN:

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black. photo credit

Physical: blonde hair, blue eyes

Age: 44

Background: From a self-described WASP family in New England; attended Smith College

Her Love of Adventure: After college she became romantically involved with a woman who trafficked heroin for a West African kingpin. She was marginally involved in the operation, but she was mostly interested in the travel and adventure, not the money. Years later she was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking and sentenced to 15-months in a minimum security prison in Connecticut. While serving time she experienced self-exploration and redemption for her actions.

Her Love of Others: Helped a fellow inmate earn her GED and was a caring friend to many of the women in prison.  She often writes about her deep love for her husband, Larry, and in general seems to have a lot of love to give.    

Memoir: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison was released in 2010 and was a #1 New York Times bestseller

On the Screen: Kerman is portrayed by Taylor Schilling in the Netflix original TV series, Orange is the New Black. The show takes major liberties with the original material, but it is still pretty darn entertaining.  Season Two will be released in June.

Taylor Schilling portrays Piper Kerman in Orange is the New Black. photo credit

 

ELIZABETH GILBERT:

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. photo credit

Physical: blonde hair, blue eyes

Age: 44

Background: Grew up on a family Christmas tree farm in New England. Had no TV, radio, or neighbors, so she read a lot. Attended NYU.

Her Love of Adventure: After a painful divorce from her husband, Gilbert spent a year travelling alone through Italy, India, and Indonesia in a quest for healing, spirituality, and self exploration. She spent time at an ashram in India, and she worked for a medicine man in Bali.

Her Love of Others:  Helped a struggling Balinese woman raise money to buy her own house.  She made lots of friends in her travels (and met her future husband).  In general, she seems to have a lot of love to give.      

Memoir: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia was released in 2006 and was a #1 New York Times bestseller. She went on the Oprah Winfrey show to discuss her book. In 2010, she published another memoir: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.

On the Screen: Elizabeth is portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love.  The movie takes away the heart and soul of the original and becomes an empty Hollywood love story.  The book is a thousand times better.

Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

 

CHERYL STRAYED:

Credit: Joni Kabana

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

Physical: blonde hair, blue eyes

Age: 45

Background: Grew up on a farm in Minnesota with no electricity, so she read a lot. Attended University of Minnesota.

Her Love of Adventure: Strayed always enjoyed travelling.  After the death of her mother and a painful divorce from her husband, Strayed experimented briefly with heroin. She then embarked alone on a grueling 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington border in a quest for healing and self-exploration.

Her Love of Others: On her hike, Strayed explored her deep love for her mother.  She also made lots of friends on the trail and generally seems to have a lot of love to give.

Memoir: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, published in 2012, was a New York Times best seller and an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

On the Screen: Strayed will be portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the movie adaptation of Wild, due out this year.  I hope it’s good, but I have my doubts.  The book is always better.

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild.  photo credit

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild. photo credit

 

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About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

3 responses »

  1. I’ve watched both Orange is the New Black and Eat,Pray, Love, but never even thought about reading them. I may have to since you pointed out how much the movie/show adaptations leave out!

    Reply
  2. I just finished rereading Eat Pray Love and I hope to begin Wild soon. I’ve been toying with watching Orange is the New Black. Might read the book instead.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert | Zezee with Books

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