LO Reads Pick for 2021: Caste


“Caste” author Isabel Wilkerson is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal. (Cover: Courtesy of Penguin Random House/Photo credit: Joe Henson)

Clio Koh, News Editor

Unanimously chosen by LO Reads for the 2021 pick, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson is a nonfiction book that examines three different caste systems around the world: India, Nazi Germany and the U.S. Wilkerson talks about the pillars that uphold these caste systems in her book through stories of real people.

At its core, “Caste” analyzes the American racial hierarchy and asserts that white supremacy isn’t the only thing harming racial minorities, but also a rigid caste system working against BIPOC(Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

“Caste” was the first book to be chosen unanimously by the LO reads committee.

Even from the first chapter, it was clear this book had something different to offer,” said Cameron Iizuka, a member of the LO Reads Steering Committee that selected “Caste.”

“It’s so incredible that LO Reads has chosen this book because not only is it the first choice pick by a Black author, but it is also incredibly timely and necessary for educating and re-educating those in our community,” said Iizuka.

Caste is a step in the right direction for people to admit that, yes, America was founded on genocide and extreme racism. It’s easy to blame ‘The South’ for perpetuating slavery and Jim Crow laws, but the North, including Oregon, was established on extremely anti-Black and anti-Indigenous legislations and ideologies. We need to recognize and understand this history in order to fix it and empower those that have been oppressed.”

“Each chapter offered a specific level of heartbreak and awakening,” Iizuka said. In an analogy, Wilkerson compared America to a house. 

“It’s easy for people to begin reading about racism or other systemic problems and suddenly be filled with intense dread or despair, but Wilkerson argues that, like a run-down house, if we let the leaky pipes continue to leak or the floorboards to rot or the dust to accumulate, we are failing ourselves. Likewise, it isn’t enough to just stop the faucet from dripping, cut off the rotten bits of floorboards or sweep the dust somewhere else. We must actively work to repair the house to make it better for the next generation and continue to improve upon it.”

“The book resonates both with the heart and the mind,” said Marcy Huss, LO teacher member of the LO Reads. “I think is perfect for 2021,the stories and the subject matter really resonate with the racial reckoning our country is currently facing (and has really been facing for a long time).”

For readers, LO Library is holding many virtual events in celebration of Caste, including the much-anticipated webinar where readers can hear from Wilkerson.

Find a preview of Caste here.

LO reads is a reading program. Books are chosen by a 15-member Steering Committee consisting of librarians, community leaders, retired professors, high school English teachers, and high school students.