The Origins of Our Discontents

Book - 2020
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK * NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST * "An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far."--Dwight Garner, The New York Times

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.

NAMED THE #1 NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME, ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People * The Washington Post * Publishers Weekly AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review * O: The Oprah Magazine * NPR * Bloomberg * Christian Science Monitor * New York Post * The New York Public Library * Fortune * Smithsonian Magazine * Marie Claire * Town & Country * Slate * Library Journal * Kirkus Reviews * LibraryReads * PopMatters

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist * National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist * PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction Finalist * PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Longlist

"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.
Publisher: New York : Random House, ©2020.
ISBN: 9780593230251
Characteristics: xvii, 476 pages ;,25 cm.


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Apr 10, 2021

First impression. The idea that the Nazis were involved in a caste system speaks to poor research skills upon the author. Rosenberg is quite critical of the caste system that developed in post Aryan Hinduism.
The term Aryan is synonymous with the Germanic tribe and constitutes tribalism, which the author appears to find unappealing. I’ll need to finish the book but the first few pages have been less than impressive. I also see no connection between Nazism and racism. They are distinctly different giving that one represents a tribal survivalist nature versus poor thinking skills.

Apr 07, 2021

This book was amazing. I listened to the audiobook and it was very interesting and gripping. So relevant for the world we live in today. The author has done her research very well and laid it out in a very interesting to understand way. I recommend this book to everyone!

Mar 30, 2021

Every American need to read this book. Look at some of the negative comments to see how close she hits the mark.

Mar 20, 2021

After reading the first 100 pages I knew this was a book I wanted to own. So, I bought a personal copy on whose pages I could mark key concepts that I could go back to again and again. This is a book that will live on in my collection of what I consider to be "transformative" books. If you're not changed after reading this book, I have to wonder if your heart will ever open. And, thank you JoCo Pub Library for making books accessible.

LCPL_Vivian Mar 15, 2021

This was a topic briefly discussed in the classroom when I was still in school, and I'm sure it was only mentioned when the class talked about an event from a long, long time ago. I liked that Wilkerson discusses events that happened recently such as the United Airlines uproar in 2017. Caste is easy to read, and I'd even recommend the audiobook if you don't want to sit down and physically read it.

Mar 10, 2021

No matter what you think you know about racism, this presents so many challenges to your views.

Mar 01, 2021

A mix of research and personal info about the concept of "Caste." While reading, I thought about my background - I come from a "sundown" town (a small number of blacks can enter to go fishing in the rivers, but must exit the city limits by sundown) and can only recall having conversed with one black person prior to college and then only having talked to two more black people even after attended a metropolitan university with a student body of 10,000 (later found that the university had only 4 black students). My early life was a perfect example of the why the great novel "Invisible Man" is aptly titled.

Feb 27, 2021

Another stunningly stupid book written by an undereducated author who fancies herself highly erudite --- hardly!
Instead of seriously researching --- and studying (a nasty obscene word to the brazenly uninformed) --- voter demographics, the author chooses to express her OPINION of those who voted Trump instead of for the communists and their Maoist agenda!
Hmmmmm . . . the two Wall Street--designated choices: Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the beneficiary of multiple fundraisers hosted for her at Martha's Vineyard by Lady de Rothschild and Jeb Bush, paid $1 million per year as a consultant to Barclays Bank, no doubt for Jeb's extensive nonexistent banking experience --- or because his brother, Neil Bush, is a nonexecutive (?) chairman of the PLA--financed Singhaiyi Group?!
Caste systems are, and have always, been the mainstay of human existence --- PERIOD!
Doesn't matter that many of us find this distasteful; water is wet and caste will exist, creating false narratives changes nothing! Equality derives from merit and meritocratic systems being attempted, however feebly. The purpose of "social equity" is to introduce communist systems, always leading --- and consciously so --- to neofeudalism -- what the planners are desiring!
The closest I have ever experienced of a merit-based system was the US military, but not really all that meritocratic. In Japan and South Korea, more homogenous cultures, academia or their school systems are somewhat more merit-based, but even then there are many discrepancies. Any who claim merit (or "math" like the Gates Foundation) is "racist" is stridently pushing the communist agenda, which both the CCP and Wall Street seek to make real!

Feb 25, 2021

The title, an argument lack of objective persuasion.
A weak aspect: resource scarcity is not perceived, it’s a reality. We live in a society/system that rewards competition, our lives are achieved. Caste won’t end, relying on human conscience. Human nature allows caste persists (e.g. we may change it from skin color to mental attributes etc...)
The book presents remarkable, extensive materials, but overwhelms readers with compassion without a concrete solution (if any) or a hope brighter than anguish inflamed candles.

I wonder,
why India's caste last,
when dynasties went under;
why Nazis caste blast
the world quick in shudder.

Chapters swell,
narration structures overlap to tell;
time and again, points made well,
salvo and burst, emotions not to quell.

Rhetoric from/for bottom rung.
empathy choked my lung:
pro justice though, align with the dominant,
my shame unsung.

I ponder,
resource scarcity is not perceived;
compete is believed, life is achieved.
Caste is always yonder,
not by divine will, is human ill.
When no one to conquer, no country with border,
but a planet to fill,
communism would be a magic pill.

Feb 14, 2021

Disappointing. The writing was disjointed, redundant, and simplistic. I was expecting a more nuanced and in-depth treatment of caste. Instead, she seems to be simply reframing race discrimination as a caste issue. I also hoped for more about the subject of caste in India, but the treatment was mostly anecdotal and superficial. The book as a whole relied far too much on anecdotal evidence; there was far too much focus on "what" instead of "why."

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Feb 06, 2021

601 quotes posted in goodreads. Likely all my favorites are included:

Sep 25, 2020

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.” - p. 386

Sep 25, 2020

“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. It is about resources—which caste is seen as worthy of them and which are not, who gets to acquire and control them and who does not. It is about respect, authority, and assumptions of competence—who is accorded these and who is not.” - pp. 17-18

Sep 25, 2020

“America is an old house. We can never declare the work over. Wind, flood, drought, and human upheavals batter a structure that is already fighting whatever flaws were left unattended in the original foundation. When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.” - pp. 15-16

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