Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

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.

“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.

Title:Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780593230251
Format Type:

    Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents Reviews

  • Roxane

    The superlatives people use to describe Caste are all accurate. This is an astonishing book with a bold premise—that race in America is a caste system like those in India and Nazi Germany. Well-writ...

  • Trevor

    It is September 2020, we are a couple of months away from seeing just how insane the US actually is. I’m nearly certain that the world’s only superpower is about to re-elect Donald Trump, and I’...

  • Liz

    The Warmth of Other Suns was one of the most important books I’ve read. So, I was really looking forward to Caste. When I previously thought of castes, I thought only of India. Wilkerson posits that...

  • Elyse  Walters

    FAVORITE NON FICTION AUDIOBOOK since Michele Obama’s “Becoming”. Ten years ago, I read “The Warmth of Other Suns”....The epic story of America’s Great Migration ....One of the most highly...

  • David Wineberg

    Americans don’t think in these terms, but Isabel Wilkerson points out in no uncertain terms that the country is running a caste system, remarkably and sadly just like India’s. In India, there are ...

  • Thomas

    Liked this book for its blunt discussion of racism and caste discrimination, though at times its analysis felt rather simple or superficial. In terms of positives, I appreciate Caste for its internati...

  • Stetson

    Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, makes the case that America is a caste system analogous to that of India's but organized on the basis ...

  • Carol

    I'm of two minds on Caste. On the one hand, it is a must-read book for anyone with the slightest interest in understanding the Black experience in the US. Its reach is so broad that having read it is ...

  • Diane S ?

    Impeccably written, extensively researched, this book couldn't be more timely. Systemic rascism, though that word is not used, rather Wilkerson argues it is in fact a caste system, a system that becam...

  • Beata

    One of the most important books of this year, tackling the issue of race, caste, class and prejudice, giving insight into how a caste society is built, how it functions and how it shapes an individual...