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Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents Hardcover – August 4, 2020

4.7 out of 5 stars 3,057 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of August 2020: It has been ten years since Wilkerson’s award-winning The Warmth of Other Suns was published. While that book pointed to the great migration of Black people to the north as an “unrecognized migration,” this new book points to our entire social structure as an unrecognized caste system. Most people see America as racist, and Wilkerson agrees that it is indeed racist. She points out that we tend to refer to slavery as a “sad, dark chapter” in America when in fact it lasted for hundreds of years—but in order to maintain a social order and an “economy whose bottom gear was torture” (as Wilkerson quotes the historian Edward Baptist), it was necessary to give blacks the lowest possible status. Whites in turn got top status. In between came the middle castes of “Asians, Latinos, indigenous people, and immigrants of African descent” to fill out the originally bipolar hierarchy. Such a caste system allowed generations of whites to live under the same assumptions of inequality—these “distorted rules of engagement”—whether their ancestors were slave owners or abolitionists. And the unspoken caste system encouraged all to accept their roles. As Wilkerson develops her argument, she brings in historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Satchel Paige. She even looks at the Nazis, who turned to us when they were seeking ways to institutionalize racism in the Third Reich. As I read this book, I finally had to consciously stop myself from highlighting passages. Because I was highlighting most of the book. --Chris Schluep

Review

“Magnificent . . . a trailblazing work on the birth of inequality . . . Caste offers a forward-facing vision. Bursting with insight and love, this book may well help save us.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“Extraordinary . . . one of the most powerful nonfiction books I’d ever encountered . . . an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far. . . .Caste deepens our tragic sense of American history. It reads like watching the slow passing of a long and demented cortege. . . . It’s a book that seeks to shatter a paralysis of will. It’s a book that changes the weather inside a reader.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[Caste] should be at the top of every American’s reading list.”Chicago Tribune

“Wilkerson’s book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it.”The Washington Post

“It is bracing to be reminded with such precision that our country was built through genocide and slavery. But Ms. Wilkerson has also provided a renewed way of understanding America’s longest, fiercest trouble in all its complexity. Her book leaves me both grateful and hopeful. I gulped it down.”—Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Mountains Beyond Mountains

“Like Martin Luther King, Jr. before her, Isabel Wilkerson has traveled the world to study the caste system and has returned to show us more clearly than ever before how caste is permanently embedded in the foundation and unseen structural beams of this old house called America. Isabel Wilkerson tells this story in prose that is so beautiful, the only reason to pause your reading is to catch your breath. You cannot understand America today without this book.”—Lawrence O'Donnell

“This enthralling exposé deserves a wide and impassioned readership.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Similar to her previous book, the latest by Wilkerson is destined to become a classic, and is urgent, essential reading for all.”—Library Journal (starred review)
 
“This is a brilliant book, well timed in the face of a pandemic and police brutality that cleave along the lines of a caste system.”Booklist (starred review)


Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.7 pounds
  • Hardcover : 496 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0593230256
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0593230251
  • Product Dimensions : 6.45 x 1.26 x 9.55 inches
  • Publisher : Random House (August 4, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 3,057 ratings