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

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize * 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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KCLS_RobinH May 06, 2021

Incredibly thought-provoking, and a great audiobook. Compelling evidence from around the world combined with modern experiences of what life is like when you're doomed to a lower caste, whether it be based on skin color, religion, or artificial hierarchy, making me rethink how I move and relate in the world.

May 06, 2021

Truly an Excellent Read.
I am just shocked of how much I did not know!
This books brings an understanding of where we find ourselves today.
Everyone should have an opportunity to read this book.
I wish I could give it 6/5 stars.

May 01, 2021

This is a very important topic, and a very important book. I would recommend this to everyone everywhere. There will be a lot that is new to many readers, such as the fact that Einstein was an anti-racist. I would have liked even more about the history of South Africa and their struggles to overcome Apartheid, and how poorly America compares. I was disappointed that the book focused on the history of racism in the US, Germany and India, but barely mentioned Malcolm X. In his autobiography, he said that the first time he felt like he was being treated like a man instead of a Black man was when he went to Germany, on his way to the middle east. He also had a lot to say on the state of racism in the US that was more insightful without relying on comparisons with other caste systems. He offered a solution, too. Unfortunately, there is a lot more missing from this examination of caste, but I'll let my friends at Jewish Voices for Peace address that giant gaping hole. Glad I read it, though.

Apr 30, 2021

The popularity of Trump validates this terrible reality in the US

Apr 29, 2021

Really interesting and informative.

Apr 18, 2021

Awareness of the realities described in this book is a human responsibility. I learned the most from the section outlining the consistent features between American racial hierarchy, the Indian caste system, and Nazism in Germany.

Apr 16, 2021

An extraordinary evidence based look into the world we live in that everyone should read. The book provides insights into why societies continue to make the same tragic mistakes over and over. We can't hope for change unless we try and understand the reasons we all struggle and then learn from past mistakes. Will we ever be able to look beyond superficial differences to realize that we truly belong to each other and are fundamentally deeply a part of each other?

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.

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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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