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'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents' by Isabel Wilkerson will be distributed to community members as part of award-winning program.

The Lake Oswego Public Library announced Tuesday, Nov. 17 that it had selected Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents" as the book for the 15th year of the LO Reads program in 2021. COURTESY PHOTO: LAKE OSWEGO LIBRARY - The Lake Oswego Public Library will feature Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents' during the 2021 Lake Oswego Reads program.

The award-winning program includes the distribution of 800 free books throughout the community as well as a number of free programs, which will be held virtually due to ongoing precautions related to the pandemic. The idea behind LO Reads is for community members to read the same book and then discuss its message together.

LO Reads officially kicks off Jan. 7, 2021.

"The Lake Oswego Reads steering committee voted unanimously to select Wilkerson's 'Caste,' with mutual sentiment that if our community was to read just one book this year, this engrossing examination of caste in America, Germany, and India holds particular interest and significance," Library Director Melissa Kelly said in a press release. "Wilkerson deftly demonstrates the detriment of caste systems on human history and human consciousness, and illuminates how societies can disassemble the caste structures they previously created."

"Caste," which was a New York Times bestseller when it was released earlier this year, is described in the press release as "an extraordinary book that compares caste systems throughout our global history. It outlines how caste systems have helped perpetuate social customs and legislation that subvert the quest for equality in society."

The LO Reads Steering Committee — which included librarians, community leaders, retired professors, high school teachers and students — considered a total of 42 books this year before unanimously selecting "Caste."

"To quote Ms. Wilkerson, in reading and digesting Caste, '(We must) look beneath what we thought we knew.' Purely, reading Caste is to dive into a polarizing and profound pool of analysis that will forever change you," steering committee member and Lake Oswego High School senior Cameron Iizuka said in the press release. "Her book is especially poignant for our community because it examines race, class, and caste in a way that we have never seen before, and all without ever using the word 'racist.' No matter what lawn sign you have posted or what flag you fly, everyone needs to read this book."

The LO Reads Events Committee is currently in the process of developing and scheduling programs for the 2021 calendar. Traditionally the author is invited to speak in Lake Oswego as part of the program, and Wilkerson has been asked to speak virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic.

"The methods and platforms for our annual community conversation around a book may be different, but fortunately the quality of the events and opportunity for engagement remain consistently high, and never less so than with the selection of Isabel Wilkerson's book, 'Caste,'" retired Lake Oswego Library director Bill Baars said in the press release.


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