Mary Ann Key Book Club

You are invited to participate in a shared, focused reading experience on themes of race, racism, and antiracism.

A collaboration with columnist Myron Medcalf, the Mary Ann Key Book Club uses reading as a catalyst for conversation as we attempt to better understand past and current injustices – including systemic racism, other forms of discrimination, and bias that affects marginalized communities.


The club’s first selection is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

The book describes racism in the United States as an aspect of a caste system – a society-wide system of social stratification characterized by notions such as hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, and purity. Wilkerson compares aspects of the experience of American people of color to the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany, and she explores the impact of caste on societies shaped by them, and their people.

This summer, we will announce a second book selection for fall 2021.

Resources for learning and discussion


Hennepin County Library is hosting facilitated discussions and programs to engage residents in conversations about the truths of the past, our challenges in the present and the possibilities of the future.

Book Club Discussions

May 3, 8, 14, 20 and 25
Join a small-group discussion of "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents" by Isabel Wilkerson. Hosted by library staff and facilitated by community leaders. Space is limited, and registration required.

A Community Discussion of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Tuesday, May 18, 6-8 p.m.
Join columnist Myron Medcalf in a discussion with community leaders Mahmoud El-Kati, Shannon Gibney, Lissa Jones-Lofgren, Ramona Kitto Stately, Terri Thao and Dr. Artika R. Tyner. Registration required.


Get email updates with book club information, including discussion questions, events, and messages from Mr. Medcalf and others.

Subscribe to the Mary Ann Key Book Club newsletter

You will receive an email confirmation that your sign-up was successful and will not be enrolled in any other newsletters by submitting the form.

Read previous issues

About the book club

The book club was inspired by a Star Tribune column written by Myron Medcalf – the great-great-great-grandson of Mary Ann Key.

“I’m honored to partner with Hennepin County Library to launch the Mary Ann Key Book Club, named after the matriarch of my family, who was a slave in Georgia in the 1850s. Purchased for $1,000 at the age of 14, Mary Ann Key persevered. Her body was in bondage, but slavery never stole the freedom of her heart, mind and soul. This book club is about focusing on the truths of the past, our challenges in the present and the possibilities of the future…” – Myron Medcalf

This program is supported by Friends of the Hennepin County Library. Their generous financial support is helping to provide greater access to print and eBook copies of the featured books.

Myron Medcalf introduces the book club