Similar to Orange is the New Black, Razor Wire Wilderness is mostly about female inmates, the unique difficulties female inmates endure while incarcerated, and the common choices and traumas that contribute to a large number of women committing certain crimes. And similar to Piper Kerman’s retelling of her time in prison, Stephanie Dickinson’s reporting of Krystal Riordan’s experiences in prison is compelling, disheartening, and a thoughtful portrayal.
However, in my opinion, the similarities stop there. While I do appreciate Dickinson’s willing vulnerability in her decision to include some of her own traumatic experiences in the book, and can understand why she felt as if she could relate to some of what Krystal Riordan has been through in life, the resulting mix of memoir and true crime felt disjointed and confusing to me. The resulting book is neither an objective recounting of female inmates nor a personal account of one person’s lived experiences. In addition, the book is sprinkled throughout with incredibly poetic musings and metaphorical prose.
It’s as if the author couldn’t decide which genre to stick with, and in my opinion, the generally well-written and interesting content suffered because of it.