Netflix announced that Emmy winner Ava DuVernay will write, produce, and direct a movie adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Kirkus-starred 2020 nonfiction book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, for the streaming service. The book is a finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, which will be awarded on Nov. 5.
Few details about the film were revealed at this early stage, although the announcement mentions Caste’s “multiple-story structure,” which will likely inform the movie version.
Wilkerson’s book defines “caste” as “the infrastructure of our divisions” and “the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining, in our case, a four-hundred-year-old social order.” She draws on numerous anecdotes as she shows how race is closely linked with this system, but she also says that “caste and race are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive,” and she relates how other factors, including xenophobia, play parts in an oppressive social hierarchy. Kirkus’ review called the work “a memorable, provocative book that exposes an American history in which few can take pride.”
The author’s Kirkus-starred 2010 debut, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
DuVernay was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director for her 2014 film, Selma, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her 2016 Netflix documentary film, 13th, for which she won two Emmy Awards. She also directed the 2018 feature film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic 1962 novel, A Wrinkle in Time.
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.