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Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

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Robin Miles

14 Hours 26 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

August 2020

Audio Book Summary

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.

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  • Anonymous

    It was riveting. The book explained so much that I hadn’t realized. Extremely well written and read.

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  • Dale S.

    Very well written and informative. A great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Powerful almost clinical but not dry approach using history to guide you to almost unimpeachable conclusions. My indoctrinated opinion of my country has taken quite a hit, but also provides the environment for positive growth.

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  • Anonymous

    I would recommend this book to every person of color. It was mind opening for me. Now I fully understand what racism means. Excellently written and the narration was superb . I give it a five.

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  • Cutressa

    This book has moved me n so many ways. The depth of research & detail Isabel invested into this project is AMAZING! The feelings about the subject are varied.. I felt sadness, disgust, anger - an entire array of emotions. Highly recommend this work & this author.

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  • Anonymous

    I wanted to like this book. I think the concept behind caste is very interesting and has legitimacy, but the author is so biased towards one ideology that the good parts of the book are drowned out. As a white male, I spent the entire time reading the book in a defensive mindset. As much as I wanted to understand the author’s experience and viewpoint, it was hard to empathize. Given a different tone, this could have been a great book.

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