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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

by Isabel Wilkerson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,7481493,182 (4.44)221
History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ? OPRAH??S BOOK CLUB PICK ? ??An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.???Dwight Garner, The New York Times
The Pulitzer Prize??winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
NAMED THE #1 NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME, ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People ? The Washington Post ? Publishers Weekly AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review ? O: The Oprah Magazine ? NPR ? Bloomberg ? Christian Science Monitor ? New York Post ? The New York Public Library ? Fortune ? Smithsonian Magazine ? Marie Claire ? Town & Country ? Slate ? Library Journal ? Kirkus Reviews ? LibraryReads ? PopMatters
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize ? National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist ? Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalist ? PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction Finalist ? PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Longlist

??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 outcasting 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 a
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» See also 221 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This book should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States. Courses could be crafted around this topic and then use this book as a guidepost during the year. Yes, it is that important of a book. I implore anyone considering reading this book to do so.

There are some personal comments and stories that the author relates that I think are nitpicking. For instance, she tells of an issue that she had while flying. She states, and I am paraphrasing here, "I fly frequently for work and I am usually the only female or member of the minority caste on the airplane." I have been in the travel industry for decades and have traveled all over the world. Not once I have ever been on a plane where there was only one woman or one person of color. Not once. Never. So I take these comments, which are frequent in this book, with several pounds of salt, not a grain. ( )
  BenM2023 | Nov 22, 2023 |
Adapted for teens from the 2020 adult bestseller, this timely work urges readers to complicate conversations around American race and class divisions.

“What does racist mean in an era when even extremists won’t admit to it?” asks Wilkerson, who introduces readers to caste, “an artificial construction” not solely based on race or class but “a fixed and embedded ranking of human value.” In America, she writes, there’s a “shape-shifting, unspoken, race-based caste pyramid” persisting through generations. The parallels between caste and race are palpable throughout the book, though, Wilkerson writes, they “are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive.” Unlike race, which is a mutable social concept, and class, which can shift through luck and achievement, the author makes the case for caste as a permanent fixture which can be traced to the 1619 arrival of enslaved Africans in the Virginia Colony. Prior to defining caste rankings and outlining its eight pillars, Wilkerson draws comparisons between India and the United States, referencing the treatment of Adivasi and Native Americans, Dalits and African Americans. Additionally, the book provides provocative insights into America’s influence on Nazi Germany, whose researchers carefully studied U.S. race laws. Vignettes and memoir intertwine, illuminating the book’s arguments. With easy-to-digest storytelling and elaborate metaphors embedded in extensive research, Wilkerson challenges readers to resist validating any semblance of hierarchy and to refer to history as a pathway for eradicating its stronghold.

Compelling and accessible for a younger generation energized to build a better world. (index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

-Kirkus Review
  CDJLibrary | Nov 9, 2023 |
This survey of the attitudes to race in America manages to be comprehensive, thought provoking and thoroughly depressing. Her surmise is that America's segregation is not simply a matter of race, but that it has become embedded as a caste system. She compares this to other caste systems, that of India & the Third Reich. The comparison is, at times, startling and to this reader appears valid in its conclusions. I felt that chapter it was missing was how you end a caste system, the Third Reich had a very efficient caste system, but you'd be hard pressed to think that it does now - I accept that violent overthrow of the ruling party involved will have helped with ending it, but that can;t be the whole story.
An excellent read, potentially an effective call to action, but it's not a hopeful book. ( )
  Helenliz | Sep 23, 2023 |
n this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched, and beautifully written 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. - from the publisher
  PendleHillLibrary | Sep 17, 2023 |
Great content. Writing could be repetitive and overly prosaic ( )
  Sana97 | Sep 15, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (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)
Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.
The human impulse to create hierarchies runs across societies and cultures, predates the idea of race, and thus is farther reaching, deeper, and older than raw racism and the comparatively new division of humans by skin color.
Except that this was and is our country and this was and is who we are, whether we have known or recognized it or not.
The most respected and beneficent of society people oversaw forced labor camps that were politely called plantations, concentrated with hundreds of unprotected prisoners, whose crime was that they were born with dark skin. Good and loving mothers and fathers, pillars of their communities, personally, inflicted, gruesome tortures upon their fellow human beings.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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History. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ? OPRAH??S BOOK CLUB PICK ? ??An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.???Dwight Garner, The New York Times
The Pulitzer Prize??winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
NAMED THE #1 NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME, ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People ? The Washington Post ? Publishers Weekly AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review ? O: The Oprah Magazine ? NPR ? Bloomberg ? Christian Science Monitor ? New York Post ? The New York Public Library ? Fortune ? Smithsonian Magazine ? Marie Claire ? Town & Country ? Slate ? Library Journal ? Kirkus Reviews ? LibraryReads ? PopMatters
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize ? National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist ? Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalist ? PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction Finalist ? PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Longlist

??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 outcasting 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 a

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