Caste Book Club Questions

Caste Book Club Questions

Our second book club selection was Caste, and our Society of Notable Women members are still digging into this very complex book.

Like I did with Untamed, our first book club selection, I thought I would bring our Caste book club questions here so other people can enjoy them as well. I found it very challenging to craft questions for this book. The material is wonderful, rich, deep, and complicated, and as a white woman, I wanted to bring an anti-racist perspective to everything as we discussed the book.

You can read the announcement for this book, why I picked it, and more about the book itself and the author right here.

Without further ado, here you go:

Caste Book Club Questions

1. Wilkerson writes about the difference between casteism and racism. A caste is a system of hierarchy in which people enjoy varying degrees of superiority or forced subjugation based on what caste someone belongs to. How have you seen or experienced the American caste system?

2. Unlike castes, class can change with marriage, money, employment, etc. How have you witnessed class changes in your own life?

3. Race is a new concept. Irish, Italians, Poles, Czechs, and more became white for the first time in America. Either knowing this or learning this, how does this affect conversations about race you have witnessed or been part of?

4. Did you study Jim Crow laws or redlining in any American history class? If yes, how old were you and what class was it? If not, how does this information inform your perspective on current events around housing, evictions, mass incarceration, and police shootings?

5. James Baldwin said: “No one was white before he/she came to America.” Discuss what this quote means to your understanding of our current caste system.

6. One of the pillars of the American caste system is heritability, and the American system determined that the caste of a person went through the mother’s lineage. This allowed slave owners to continue to rape their female slaves and allow their children to remain slaves. Know this, how is your opinion of the American mass incarceration system affected (with 7 to 1 Black men incarcerated compared to white men).

7. Was the information about the “Purity vs Pollution” pillar new to you? How does it change your perception of American community pools and private swim clubs?

8. Is the concept of “give the wall” (lower caste stepping out of the way for upper caste) new to you? How have you experienced this in your life?

9. Erich Fromm wrote about how group narcissism – membership in a larger group determines self-worth, hatred of others, and belief in one’s own self-importance – leads to fascism. How has that played out in America in the last few decades?

10. Did you know that Nazis developed their laws regarding Jews, gypsies, and other undesirables by observing and implementing American caste laws? When did you learn this?

11. Germans are ashamed of their Nazi history in a way Americans are not ashamed of slavery. Why do you think Germany was able to humanize their victims and develop laws to enforce “never again” while America still has statues of Lee and confederate flags?

12. How has the pandemic shifted how you feel about the American caste system? What was unseen for you that is now seen?

 

And that is that! Those are the book club questions we worked through while reading Caste.

Next Steps

We would always love to have you in The Society of Notable Women. Request to join today!

And we welcome you to join us for our next book club selection, Raising Antiracist Kids: The Power of Intentional Conversations About Race and Parenting by Nicole Lee.

If you want to read the book club questions provided by the publisher, you can read those here.

Your Household Is a Container: How to Organize Your Home

Your Household Is a Container: How to Organize Your Home

My beautiful friend, podcast guest, and student Tia (of episode 1) asked me how I kept my household organized without it becoming a cluttered mess or a giant pain in my ass. How can it be organized, stress-free, easeful, etc. This was my response.

Your household is a container full of smaller and smaller containers.

And though I love the Container Store as much as the next organized person, I don’t mean physical containers – although they can be – I mean spaces to contain your life.

Your dresser is a container for your clothes, your under the bed bin for your blankets, or your pantry for your food. You might have a box you keep favorite cards or letters you’ve received, or a place for your jewelry.

Containers.

I think that keeping healthy containers in your life – both physical space and boundaries – help increase your capacity or energy and allow you the space you need in your life to create.

You might have a container around your bedroom – no work happens in there, only sleeping! (Studies support this as a wise move, btw.) You might use a virtual Zoom background as a container to keep your work life and home life separate during the unprecedented pandemic. (If someone gives you shit about doing this, please email me and I will be your workplace advocate.)

All of these are containers! And household containers can support us or hurt us as much as boundaries can.

First and most importantly, please know that it is much harder to return things to a container if it’s not easy for you to do so. For example, short folks who have divorced their tall partners report taking years before they realize they don’t need to use the top shelf. Or in my case, I had a very complicated under the kitchen sink organizing system that was fine when I was single and sent me into a rage at 4 am with a very awake baby. Life changes, containers need to change, and assessing how they affect us can make our lives easier.

However, you can sometimes choose to make the container not easy for you, and if you do, the reason must be more important than the ease. For example, my father gave me an antique pitcher and basin when my husband and I moved in together. The basin is large. The pitcher is heavy. The whole set needs to be – dusted! Dusted, folks, I am not known for my dusting. I have always loved that gift though, and since my father passed away in January, I will *cut* anyone who gives that pitcher set even a side-eye. The pitcher and basin – they’re love. They don’t need to be ease filled because they are love-filled.

But on the flip side, I had a box given to me by a friend who ditched me and then burned me in the rona times. And that box got donated, thank you very much. It made me angry or sad every time I looked at it, and now, it’s bringing someone else joy. This was an effective container change for me.

If you too need to create more effective containers, most likely because the clutter of your household is getting to you when you cannot leave it in a worldwide pandemic – this is how I would tackle it.

Household Container Clearing Steps

1. Get real about your possessions.

No, I am not Marie Kondo. (Her drawer method is life-changing though, it really is.) American capitalism is always pushing you to need and want more and more and more, to the point that most people’s homes can’t even fit everything. If this is you, you will have to do some pairing down to fit into the container of your home. Or move into a new home, I’m not telling you what to do, just suggesting that this part is physics. Mary Poppins’ bag is sadly not available on Amazon.

This doesn’t mean you need to get rid of everything you own! It means you need to be intentional about what you own. Do you have clothes you hate? A hat too small for your head? Books that you read and hated but are still holding on to? Donate or sell, but clear the space.

And be honest with yourself. People tell themselves all sorts of crazy stories about everything under the sun, but no more than they do about their stuff. This blazer makes me a real executive (even though the button can’t close over my giant post baby breasts). This leather skirt makes me a real artist (even though I am scared to wear it because what if I spill?). Etc etc. Don’t bullshit yourself. If you need help, Zoom a straight shooter friend of yours for help.

2. What do you have that can pull double duty?

Ottomans! Shelves! Hooks! Drawers! All the natural containers you already have might be able to fill a dual purpose. I wanted a place to sit down at my front door and put my shoes on, and I had an ottoman that I had been using for toys for my Bean. I organized the toys in his room in a different way – on shelves installed in the closet – and took the ottoman for the door. Now I could sit to put on my shoes and store items near the door. Didn’t need to buy anything, didn’t add something new to the space, plus it serves dual purpose in its new role.

Do you have a need and an item that can be matched? For me, I had these shelves I loved but didn’t know where to put them and couldn’t find bedstands I liked that were in stock in the pandemic. Need, meet your match!

3. What can you replace with something that can pull double duty? Or even triple duty?

Do you have a chair that you don’t really like but an ottoman you do? Could you donate the chair, replace it with the ottoman and store the vacuum in there?

Maybe you have 3 small shelves that make it hard for you to move around your kitchen, but if replace them with one long shelf with hooks, you could move around freely and hang your apron?

These can either be items you already have or items you can source, including buying. Sometimes I will put a new container on my wish list, and I will figure out another way, and sometimes, a friend just gifts me it in the mail.

4. How can these containers be easy?

If you only use something once a year, it does not need to be in the front of the closet.

If the cat litter box is in the closet, can you store the litter and scoop right next to it with the spare bags so it’s an easy chore?

Where can you store the laundry basket so it’s easy to handle? If you have a bad back, maybe storing it in the laundry room makes the most sense. If you have a bad back, maybe a laundry basket in addition to the hamper makes the most sense. Do what works for you and your life.

I have a basket on the kitchen breakfast bar as a COVID-19 catch all. Masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. live there. My husband hates the basket, and he desires it to move. But it is the absolutely best location for it, and we can easily find these items related to our safety. Practicality combined with safety combined with ease of use make this container more important than the annoyance of having it on the counter.

Is this an overnight process? No. Sadly no. It took my years to find my container balance. But bit by bit, it got better and better, and easier and easier.

My only other tip is that after finding this delicate balance, you must work every day to keep it. I personally prefer to restore items to their home throughout the day. I would not say my husband and son agree. They usually pick up about half their items before bedtime, and I walk through once and finish the job. In theatre terms, I restore the home so when we wake up the next morning, we are ready to go, starting off on the right foot.

Is that emotional and physical labor? Yes. Am I carrying the mental load? Yes. But does it make everything easier for me in the long run, yes, it does. And I think we make incremental progress as a family pack all the time, especially in the pandemic because we get to practice every day.

If you try this process, let me know how it goes for you. May you feel lighter and grounded and ready to kick ass. Godspeed.

Untamed Book Club Questions

Untamed Book Club Questions

Our first book club selection was Untamed, and our Society of Notable Women members loved this book!

I thought I would bring our Untamed book club questions here so other people can enjoy them as well. Our members felt like they helped them think about the book in a deep way. These questions also generated a lot of conversation, as all good book club questions should do (amirite or amirite?).

You can read the announcement for this book, why I picked it, and more about the book itself and the author right here.

Without further ado, here you go:

Untamed Book Club Questions
  1. What are your own preconceived thoughts about what your life is supposed to look like?
  2. When have you personally listened to your intuition?
  3. What did it feel like in your body when you listened to your intuition?
  4. How can you continue to create opportunities for you to listen to your own body?
  5. Have you ever had a physical reaction to another person like Doyle describes from when she met Abby Wambach for the first time?
  6. Have you ever come to a decision because you gave yourself advice like Doyle does with herself around loving her husband?
  7. How have you witnessed women being martyrs for their family? This seems to be very common in the pandemic.
  8. Why do you think Doyle was able to pivot even though her audience was primarily Christian women, and she was now dating (and then marrying) a woman? (PS If you are new to the Notable Woman, this is not something that we would consider problematic, as we believe love is love. Read our community values here.)
  9. Do you practice anyway to get quiet with yourself?
  10. What beliefs have you found for yourself that you actually don’t believe?
  11. Did you already know about how/why conservatives chose social justice issues to rally their base in the 1970’s or was this new information for you? How does that change how you feel about them (if at all)?
  12. What hard things do you want to do but you are afraid of disappointment?
  13. In what ways are you becoming an anti-racist? (This is a practice we have to commit to every day.)
  14. Do you feel like you’ve ever tried to force your life into a script?

And that is that! Those are the book club questions we worked through while reading Untamed.

Next Steps

We would always love to have you in The Society of Notable Women. Request to join today!

And we welcome you to join us for our next book club selection, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson.

 

 

October Book Club Selection: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

October Book Club Selection: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

I’m excited to announce our October pick for The Notable Woman Book Club – Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

I had the pleasure of meeting Isabel Wilkerson during her book tour for The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. At the time, I was working at Riverside Church, a social justice church housed in a gothic, beautiful building in Morningside Heights in New York City. I have absolutely no idea how I heard that Wilkerson was speaking at the Church that day, and I had not yet read her book. But what I did hear about her and the event intrigued me so even though I was exhausted after a long day in the theatre, I went to the talk. Wilkerson did not disappoint. She was a delight, a wealth of knowledge, and opened my eyes to a part of US history that I did not know anything about. I’m forever changed from her talk that day, which is why her new book has me so excited.

What’s Caste about?

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people–including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others–she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Oh my gosh, right? You know this is going to be good.

And who is Isabel Wilkerson?

Isabel Wilkerson, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Warmth of Other Suns. Her debut work won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and was named to Time‘s 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the 2010s and The New York Times‘s list of the Best Nonfiction of All Time. She has taught at Princeton, Emory, and Boston Universities and has lectured at more than two hundred other colleges and universities across the United States and in Europe and Asia.

What are people saying about this book?

“Magnificent . . . a trailblazing work on the birth of inequality . . . Caste offers a forward-facing vision. Bursting with insight and love, this book may well help save us.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Extraordinary . . . one of the most powerful nonfiction books I’d ever encountered . . . an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far. . . .Caste deepens our tragic sense of American history. It reads like watching the slow passing of a long and demented cortege. . . . It’s a book that seeks to shatter a paralysis of will. It’s a book that changes the weather inside a reader.”–Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[Caste] should be at the top of every American’s reading list.”Chicago Tribune

“Wilkerson’s book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it.”The Washington Post

We’ll be discussing this book in The Society of Notable Women. You can request to join here.

I recommend you buy the book from Bookshop and support a local indie bookstore. Or you can get this book from your local library! Lastly, you could get it on Amazon.

Looking forward to chatting books with you!

The Notable Woman Book Club is here!

The Notable Woman Book Club is here!

I’m excited to announce the first pick for The Notable Woman Book Club – Untamed by Glennon Doyle.

I’ve wanted to launch a book club for Notable Women for years now. I love to read, you love to read, it’s a match made in heaven. But it was always so time-consuming on top of everything else that I wasn’t really managing. It got pushed to the side over and over again. But now, I finally do have the time, and I can’t wait to get started.

Picking our first book is also really challenging, but since this book came out during the pandemic and all the normal exciting book events have been canceled, I think it’ll be fun for us to gather to discuss. (Virtually gather, of course.)

What’s Untamed about?

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent–even from ourselves.

And who is Glennon Doyle?

Glennon Doyle is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Love Warrior, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, as well as the New York Times bestseller Carry On, Warrior. An activist, speaker, and thought leader, she is also the founder and president of Together Rising, an all-women led nonprofit organization that has revolutionized grassroots philanthropy–raising over $20 million for women, families, and children in crisis, with a most frequent donation of just $25. Glennon was named among OWN Network’s SuperSoul 100 inaugural group as one of 100 “awakened leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity.” She lives in Florida with her wife and three children.

What are people saying about this book?

Untamed will liberate women–emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is phenomenal.”–Elizabeth Gilbert, author of City of Girls and Eat Pray Love

“Some books shake you by the shoulder while others steal your heart. In Untamed, Glennon does both at the exact same time.”–Brené Brown

“This memoir is so packed with incredible insight about what it means to be a woman today, what it means to be ‘good, ‘ and what women will do in order to be loved. I swear I highlighted something in EVERY chapter.”–Reese Witherspoon

We’ll be discussing this book in The Society of Notable Women. You can request to join here.

I recommend you buy the book from Bookshop and support a local indie bookstore. Or you can get this book from your local library! Lastly, you could get it on Amazon.

Looking forward to chatting books with you!

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