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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

by Isabel Wilkerson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4081165,040 (4.45)159
""As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power--which groups have it and which do not." 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. Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of America life today"--… (more)
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» See also 159 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
Took my time to read this book, but sslow reading was worth it. A wondeful combination of storytelling, historical facts and numbers. Very eye opening and well argued. ( )
  Iira | May 1, 2022 |
Great blend of statistics, history, and human touch required to gain perspective on America's racial hierarchy. Was not overly academic, and the writing was easy to connect with. Much better than the more popular White Fragility in terms of message, delivery, and content. ( )
  ds_db | Apr 25, 2022 |
Wilkerson effectively argues that American society is based on a caste system and then examines it against ancient caste system of India and the caste system created by the Nazi regime. It's enlightening and often surprising, but there is a tension between the more scholarly sections and the chapters that relate others' personal experiences without giving their names or even where she heard these stories. Even with these sections, the book is a powerful call to self-examination for Americans. ( )
  Bodagirl | Apr 2, 2022 |
I really like The Warmth of Other Suns. This book also contained the strong storytelling that made The Warmth of Other Suns so pleasing. Storytelling is the author's strength. Analysis of cultural, social, structural problems is not her strength. So this book, which builds upon the author's argument that the U.S., India, and Nazi Germany all observed a similar social structure she renamed into "caste," did not convince me of this thesis. The more she provided strong storytelling that tried to piggy-back on the similarities, the more I become glaringly aware that she chose not to address the differences between the three social systems. I gave up on p.191. I'm really sorry this book is the hype that it is in the U.S. It seems we will just get more and more confused about what had happened in other cultures many years ago. And I wish she discussed the caste system in Japan. ( )
  CathyChou | Mar 11, 2022 |
I did not finish this book, although it was very good, but I can't figure out how to take it off my currently reading list without marking it read. Marking it not-reading doesn't do it!
  Wren73 | Mar 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
A memorable, provocative book that exposes an American history in which few can take pride.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (May 30, 2020)
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isabel Wilkersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miles, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Because even if I should speak,
no one would believe me,
And they would not believe me precisely because
they wuld know that that I said was ture.
--------James Baldwin
If the majority knew of the root of this evil,

then the road to its cure would not be long.

-------------------Albert Einstein
Dedication
To the memory of my parents

who survived the caste system

and to the memory of Brett

who defied it
First words
In the haunted summer of 2016, an unaccustomed heat wave struck the Siberian tundra on the edge of what the ancients once called the End of the Land.
There is a famous black-and-white photograph from the era of the Third Reich.
Quotations
Hitler had made it to the chancellery in a brokered deal that conservative elites agreed to only because they were convinced they could hold him in check and make use of him for their own political aims. They underestimated his cunning and overestimated his base of support, which had been the very reasson the had felt they needed him in the first place. At the height of their power at the polls, the Nazis never pulled the majority they coveted and drew only 38 percent of the vote in the country's last free and fair elections at the onset of their twelve-year reign. The old guard did not foresee, or chose not to see, that his actual mission was "to exploit the methods of democracy to destroy democracy." (p 82)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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""As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power--which groups have it and which do not." 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. Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of America life today"--

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