Caste (Oprah's Book Club)

Caste (Oprah's Book Club) Summary

NEW YORK TIMESBESTSELLER • 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.

Book Reviews


Reviving5 star

Words can not explain how much this is a great and impactful read. I was as lost for words to sum this one up. The knowledge and facts were never ending55


Truth to Power5 star

I really don't have adequate words to fully express how changed I am from the author's expression of such profound truths. This book should be read by every human being. It's transformative.55

Alpha Bah

Excellent insights into why we are where we are today5 star

Thanks for sharing your personal stories and for giving us the context of race relations, caste, and the resulting racism that we’re experiencing today. Excellent reading.55

Duck lover 27

Boooooriiin1 star

Can she go back to giving away cars15


Should be required reading for every American5 star

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


Don’t bother.1 star

This is absolute trash.15


Caste5 star

A must read for ALL of humanity!55

Richard Bakare

The Root of Our Evil5 star

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


I get it4 star

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


Excellent summary of history and the true meaning of caste5 star

Highly recommended - a must read55

Other Books by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns


The Warmth of Other Suns
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