"This might be the most important book I’ve ever chosen for my book club," said Winfrey, 66, in a statement. "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents provides a new way of seeing racial inequality, giving rise to countless aha moments and helping us truly understand America as it is now and how we hope it will be."
The book explores the ways the United States has an unspoken caste system, mirroring in haunting ways the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany. Wilkerson did an extensive amount of research to bring the stories of real people to life. She also exposes the cost of racism and the harmful divisions in society.
"This work shows that the term racism may be insufficient in our current era. We need new language, a new framework for understanding our divisions and how we got to where we are," the author said in a statement. "'Caste' gives us this language. 'Caste' allows us to see ourselves through a different lens and the chance to work toward healing from the wounds of artificial hierarchy. We must first see it to begin to resolve it."
Winfrey announced the news on Tuesday, in partnership with Apple Books. The star will serve as the first-ever guest editor for Apple News. Later this month, readers will able to access a collection of related articles on the app that she's curated.
"Every book I've ever chosen for an Oprah's Book Club selection I've done with care and with passion, but I don't think that there has ever been another pick that has been as vital as this one," Winfrey explained in an Instagram video. "This book might well save us."
"Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is a must read for humanity. It explains why we are where we are in terms of racial injustice and inequality. And so many aha moments, your highlighter is going to run out of ink. She says caste is a disease from which none of us are immune," the TV personality continued. "But we have a moment now to rebuild the world without a caste hierarchy. A world in which all are truly equal and free. And I believe this book shows us the way to that world, which is why it's my new Oprah's Book Club pick. 'A full embrace of all humanity lifts the standard of any human endeavor,' Wilkerson writes. And that's what I want for us all."
The news comes just days after Winfrey gave up her O, The Oprah Magazine cover for the first time in its 20-year publication. Instead, Breonna Taylor — a young woman who was fatally shot by police who stormed into her Louisville home in March — took over the cover of the September issue of the magazine. The issue is not only a cry for justice, but it also examines the cost of systemic racism and promotes anti-racism and activism.
In a statement, Winfrey connected the global Black Lives Matter movement to her own experience as a Black woman.
"I have a collection of property ledgers from former plantations. Names, ages, and prices of people, listed along with cattle, shoes, wagons, and all other earthly possessions. The ledgers are framed in my library," Winfrey said in a statement. "When in need of fortification in times of crisis or challenge, and sometimes just to remind myself where I've come from, I read them aloud. I feel a kinship. As a great-great-granddaughter of enslaved people, I know that in a different era my name would have been in someone's ledger. Those ledgers come to mind when I see the names of Black women who were killed by police. Breonna Taylor and too many others like her."
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"I see the names, I think of the ledgers, I feel the connection down the generations: the refusal to value Black women's lives," she continued. "And I feel a personal connection. Because I am these women. These women are me."