NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • 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.
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • “An instant American classic.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“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 American life today.
Caste (Oprah's Book Club) book summary coming soon..
Beautifully and powerfully written. All of us can learn something from this brilliant book. Trying to imagine how much better we can all be if we open our eyes to the realities Ms. Wilkerson describes and work together to help our nation live up to its founding intentions of “liberty and justice for all”. 55
This is absolute trash. 15
A must read for ALL of humanity! 55
By the time you get to chapter six of Caste, you start to see concepts like “trickle-down economics,” shift in your mind. They transition from debatable topics, to their true state. The light is fully shown on the vile and wholly disgusting nature of these ideologies. They are the tools for the perpetuation of a system of subjugation and dehumanization that America cannot seem to shake. Wilkerson has masterfully disassembled the structure of Caste in America and elsewhere. The chilling comparisons and contrasts emphasize the utter absurdity of arbitrary divisions between men. Caste systems are mechanisms for the wicked and greedy to coalesce power and wealth to themselves. And worse, it is a system that can completely shatter the free will of a human being. This book provides an exploded view of the internal machinery that powers human subjugation. It is mandatory reading for a world demanding social justice at louder and louder decibels. Fast forwarding to present day, this book reaffirms a belief I’ve had about minorities who seem to desperately seek the approval of the dominant caste by worshiping at the alter of money or denigrating their own as a means to social status & acceptance. 55
Thanks to this book I better understand some/many Trump supporters. It’s an insight that should embarrass anyone that claims to be American. 45
Highly recommended - a must read 55
Having dealt this past summer with the Confederate monument issue as a public servant and descendant of Confederates, I found Ms Wilkerson's premise both insightful and thought provoking. It reaffirmed my long-wrestled-with decision that the time was past due to deal with issues that are destructive to building a true community in the 21st Century. It was very readable and eye-opening. 55
This books provides a clear understanding of the basis of racism in America. 55
It is commendable that the author has focused on caste system in Hinduism. India is the bastion of caste apartheid ! It is not just the Brahmins that do this. There are other so called upper castes that use it to suppress everyone below them ! This is done through caste nepotism also known as caste networking. Where caste nepotism exists, merit dies ! You can see that in India. In the past 70 years Japan, China, Europe rose from the ashes of WW2 to accomplish great things for their people. India has been held back by caste nepotism ! This is sad. 45
This book was painful to read. So much of what she writes is showing the reader the cruelty, hatred, and evil perpetrated as a result of the caste system. I appreciate that she used this word to describe the system - and showed examples from the United States, India, and Nazi Germany. It shows us that this is a human tendency/evil - not just an American one. As such, rooting out this evil becomes a duty of our humanity, our call to honoring all humans as they are created, and to understanding how we are so much more alike than we are different. The book ends with a hopeful tone and a realistic challenge to the reader - I am a reader from the dominant caste - to set aside the “fake crown” and “see all of humanity.” I appreciate the way that she shows us that an end to the caste system can be done - as it was done in Germany with the end of the Nazi reign. The parallels that she draws between what happened there, and how they continue to heal from it - and our system of racial inequality in the United States, was so powerful. I enjoyed the way that she included some personal experiences in this well researched book. She helped us to see and hear the daily human impact of the caste system, which is where we meet it. I did not find this book to be a page turner. It is in no way pleasant or acceptable to witness the violence and harm that is a result of the caste system. I committed to reading it because I know how essential it is to understand deeply this injustice, so that I can commit more fully every day to setting it right. Thank you Ms. Wilkerson for this labor of justice and love. I pray that this book finds its way into the hands of millions so that we can engage together to dismantle the harmful system of caste in this country. 55