real piper kerman

Warning: minor spoilers from here on out.

During one of the flashbacks in the new season of Orange Is the New Black, a teenager is threatening to jump off the roof of his high school while a crowd of fellow students gathers below him.

“I’m failing Math and Western Civ!” he wails.

Someone deep within the throng of onlookers yells back, “We’re all failing Western Civ!”

It’s a funny line uttered by a faceless stranger, but the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sentiment encapsulates so much of what the Netflix series is about, from the fact that the number of women in prison has grown an astounding 800 percent over the past three decades, to the revelation that it took a Trojan horse—as show creator Jenji Kohan called the Caucasian, blond character of Piper Chapman, based on the real-life memoir by Piper Kerman—to get viewers to care about stories that center around incarcerated black, Latina, and older women.

‘Orange Is the New Black’ Explores Motherhood Behind Bars in Season Three