The University of Chicago’s University Community Service Center (UCSC) in partnership with UChicago Laboratory Schools, UChicago Charter School, and the Seminary Co-op Bookstores are pleased to support a student and University community centered book club discussion on Isabel Wilkerson's book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
Book Club Details:
Book club participants will read Caste at their own pace during the months of January and February. After reading Caste, participants will engage in a discussion about the book with members of the University community on Thursday, February 25th.
Prior to meeting virtually, participants will receive questions and discussion topics to help them prepare and to facilitate their discussion. Participants will also receive a Zoom link to join their per-arranged virtual discussion.
Physical and electronic versions of Caste are available through the Chicago Public Library. The book is also available for purchase through the Seminary Coop.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Isabel Wilkerson, 2020
To register for the book club, submit this brief form.
About the Author:
A leading figure in narrative nonfiction and the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, Wilkerson is a renowned interpreter of the human condition. Her latest bestselling work, Caste, is a portrait of systemic inequality that connects the oppression of Black Americans to caste systems in India and Nazi Germany.
Review of the Book:
“In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.”
Wilkerson, Isabel. “Caste (Oprah's Book Club) by Isabel Wilkerson.” PenguinRandomhouse.com, Random House Group, www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/653196/caste-oprahs-book-club-by-isabel-wilkerson/.
Sample Discussion Questions:
- What elements does Wilkerson believe are required for a caste system to exist? How can we be cognizant of those elements in our world and society?
- How does the book differentiate caste from race? What is the relationship between them?
- What does Wilkerson say are the benefits and harms of a caste system? Who experiences these benefits and harms?
- What differences exist between the three caste systems described by Wilkerson?