A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book teaches about the history, features, and consequences of three different caste systems -- in the U.S., in Nazi Germany, and in India -- to shed light on the uniquely American racial caste system and what must be done to confront and begin to deconstruct it.
You must learn about and confront history so that you can avoid repeating it. We can't fix social and structural problems we don't acknowledge as reality. It is our shared humanity that invests us in breaking down caste systems. Though we didn't build the caste system, we have inherited it from our ancestors, so it's everyone's responsibility to challenge structures that produce inequality.
Positive Role Models
The author features stories of activists and everyday people who challenged caste systems in important ways, providing role models for readers who wish to create social change in their own lives and communities.
Though race, religion, and ethnicity are the main dimensions of caste covered, the author does discuss how other oppressed groups fit into caste systems, including various immigrant groups, LGBTQ communities, and the role of gender and women's unique position in caste systems. Intersectionality in the context of caste is also covered, though not extensively.
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Violence & Scariness
Some young adult readers may be disturbed by the graphic descriptions of racial violence (lynchings, burnings, torture, physical abuse, medical experiementation) and racialized sexual violence (rape, castration, forced birth) that occur throughout the text. These descriptions are difficult to read but not gratuitous and serve to demonstrate the extremity of dehumanization required for caste systems to be built and maintained.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Occasional descriptions of nudity and non-graphic sexual violence in service of explaining how total control of bodies is a feature of caste systems.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few references to acts of violence or cruelty carried out by dominant group members while drunk are included.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Isabel Wilkerson's Caste: Adapted for Young Adults is a nonfiction book about the history and modern-day consequences of the racial caste system in the United States. Adapted from the best-selling, 500-page Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, young adult readers can now access this important history and call to action. Wilkerson relies on academic research, sturdy metaphors, and storytelling to analyze three different caste systems across the globe -- the racial caste system in the United States, Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish castes, and the religion-based castes of India. She describes eight pillars of caste systems, the consequences of their existence, and how to "awaken" from the illusions, false promises, and inhumanity of caste. Some young adult readers may be disturbed by the graphic descriptions of racial violence (lynchings, burnings, torture, physical abuse, medical experimentation) and racialized sexual violence (rape, castration, forced birth) that occur throughout the text.
Is It Any Good?
This engrossing, meticulously researched, and humanity-affirming book is essential reading for any teen advocate of social change, and could inspire a teen reader to become one. Caste is based on Wilkerson's award-winning 2020 book of the same name. Compelling metaphors, like inheriting an old house or being cast in a play, make dense, difficult history and advanced language and ideas accessible for younger readers. Many parts of the book are heavy and disturbing, including descriptions of torture, racial and sexual violence, and genocide. Younger teens may struggle with sophisticated vocabulary and the intense content, so it may be best to read and discuss the book as a family or offer it for independent reading only to older teens. That said, hope is interwoven throughout the narrative. The author makes plain the hold caste has on us all and opens readers up to the shared humanity that will invest us in shaping a more just future. An unequivocal must-read.
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