Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson


Title: Caste

By: Isabel Wilkerson

Genre: Non-Fiction

Pages: 496

Release Date: August 4th, 2020

Publisher: Random House

Rating: ★★★★☆


Summary from Goodreads:

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.


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As someone who's schooling was very sheltered and knowledge of history very limited, Its interesting to read world views and stories that were kept from me as a school aged child. I'm not sure this was done on purpose, but now that I'm an adult, I've been playing a lot of catch-up and its been eye opening.

Even more so now, in this world we live in, I can see the caste system and how its been working against the human race for hundreds even thousands of years, and not much has changed other than the fact that those placing these roles on other people have learned how to hid it better or call it different things. I love how the author deep dives into the real nitty gritty of our society. Its very eye opening.

The writing itself can become highly repetitive, so keep that in mind when reading. After looking at other similar reviews, it was brought to my attention that this can help to solidify these ideas into the mind by repeating the same idea over and over. I can see how this could be a useful tactic, but maybe not when I'm looking for a good story to read. However, this is non-fiction and not a good story, but facts and history.

With this all being said, this was a good read and very relevant in today's society.

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