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Oprah's Book Club Pick Links Racist South, Nazis

'Caste' by Isabel Wilkerson 'could change the way we see each other'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 4, 2020 10:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – If not for the coronavirus, Oprah Winfrey tells the AP, she'd be out in the streets and marching with the Black Lives Matter protesters. She has instead found other ways to add her voice. She's working with Lionsgate on a multimedia adaptation of the New York Times' "1619 Project" on the legacy of slavery. She hosted a two-night special on her OWN channel about racism. The current issue of O, The Oprah Magazine features a cover photo of Breonna Taylor. And on Tuesday, Winfrey announced she had chosen Isabel Wilkerson's exploration of race and hierarchy in the US, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, as her latest book club pick. Wilkerson's book—"almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far," per the Times—"could change the way we see each other, how we see our humanity and the structure of our world," says Winfrey.

Wilkerson, 59, is an author and journalist who won the National Book Critics Circle award in 2011 for her previous book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the Black migration from the South in the early 20th century. In Caste, she looks at American history and the treatment of Blacks and finds what she calls an enduring, unseen, and unmentioned caste system that has yet to be fully confronted. Winfrey said many details were revelatory for her, such as the Nazis' admiration for the Jim Crow system. "That was shocking to me ... Hitler was using the racist South as a template for race purification in Germany," says Winfrey, who bought 500 copies to send to leaders in business, sports, and politics, including all 50 state governors. Wilkerson says the endorsement means "many more people who have not learned about this will have the chance to read about something that deeply affects us all."

(Read more Oprah's Book Club stories.)

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