Statewide Watch Party and Conversation

On Wednesday, September 22nd at 7:00PM, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Massachusetts Center for the Book, and libraries across the Commonwealth will be hosting a Commonwealth Watch Party and Conversation in collaboration with the Library of Congress and National Book Festival 2021.

The event features Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontentsin a video recorded for National Book Festival discussing the book.

After the video, there will be a conversation facilitated by former Massachusetts Representative and legendary civil rights advocate Byron Rushing, a strong library advocate, & Professor Roopika Risam, noted scholar in Public Humanities and African diaspora and Indigenous Studies at Salem State University and recipient of the first Civil Liberties Champion Award from Massachusetts Library Association. Krista McLeod, Director of Nevins Library (Methuen) and Molly Fogarty, Director of Springfield City Library, will be moderators.

To register for this free event, click on this link: 


You may participate fully in this conversation without having read Caste in its entirety. For background, you may wish to consult the information below: 

• Isabel Wilkerson’s summary of the argument in Caste: “America’s Enduring Caste System,” by Isabel Wilkerson, New York Times Magazine, July 1, 2020

• Penguin Random House/Oprah Book Club Reading Guide for Caste 

• Caste borrowing info in the CLAMS Library Network catalog

• Large-print, braille, & talking book editions of Caste via Perkins Talking Book Library & Worcester Talking Book Library



“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power–which groups have it and which do not.” 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 America life today”– Provided by publisher.

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