First Reflections - Mary Ann Key Book Club

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April 12, 2021

Thank you for joining the Mary Ann Key book club, and welcome to our first newsletter. We are thrilled that you and so many others have joined this collective effort to read, learn, discuss and foster the change we need to see in our community. In our first newsletter, Myron Medcalf shares initial reflections our first book, Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, and offers a powerful question for reflection and discussion.


First Reflections from Myron Medcalf

Portrait of Myron Medcalf

When I was a child, I never understood why my father rarely looked people in the eye. I figured it was just one of the unconscious habits we all have. I was in my 30s, however, when my mother pulled me aside and told me that my father did not always look people in the eye because he was raised in segregated Mississippi around the time Emmett Till had been tortured and murdered, and he learned at an early age he could lose his life if he stared at a white person. His “habit” was a survival mechanism. 


I thought about my father as I read the opening chapters of Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste,” an incredible work that addresses the hierarchy oppression has created and preserved across the globe. Whether it’s Nazi Germany, the caste system of India or America’s race-based history of separation, it is clear that the individuals viewed as inferior within these systems live in a perpetual state of vulnerability. America’s caste system, detailed by Wilkerson, has left a mark on my father -- and so many others like him. 

- Myron Medcalf


Reflection and discussion

How many times have you had to depend on someone outside your race for opportunities of advancement -- a job opportunity, a promotion, assistance with progress toward a degree, a loan to buy a home or attend school, etc. -- and what does that say about the American caste system’s role in your own life?

More discussion questions are available from publisher Penguin Random House.


Share your feedback and questions

Tell us your thoughts as you read Caste. Share your feedback, reflections or questions. Responses and questions may be shared with Myron Medcalf and library staff, and quotes may be shared with readers through our newsletter.


Upcoming programs

We are finalizing plans for spring events, including virtual book discussions and a panel discussion with community leaders. Save the date for our panel event on May 18. More details will be shared soon.


Other HCL programs of interest

April 21

May 15

  • More Than a Single Story is a series of programs that strive to break down the stereotyping of people of color by celebrating their diverse voices and experiences. Funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. 

June 13-19

  • Commemorate Juneteenth Season with live virtual events and recorded programs to enjoy powerful stories, performances, rhythms and songs. Funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Resources for reading, listening and learning  

Thank you, Friends.

Friends of the Hennepin County Library logo.

The Mary Ann Key Book Club receives generous financial support from Friends of the Hennepin County Library. Thanks to Friends members like you, the library is able to offer expanded access to digital and print editions of Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. You can help expand access to more books, programs and resources, by supporting your library today. GIVE NOW

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