By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of Caste

Book description


"Powerful and timely ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough" - Barack Obama

From one of America's most celebrated and insightful writers, the moving, eye-opening bestseller about what lies hidden under the surface of ordinary lives


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Why read it?

7 authors picked Caste as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I wish this book was required reading for every American. This book helped me reframe my understanding of racism in the U.S. by contextualizing it in terms of caste systems. It explains and compares three different caste systems—in India, in the U.S., and in the Third Reich in Germany. I had never heard the idea of caste applied to America before, and after reading this, I can’t think of America except in terms of caste. I now realize there are parts of American history and culture where the word ‘racism’ doesn’t quite communicate what’s happening. But understanding and using ‘caste’…

This book challenges all of us to think about race in America and confront how racism has shaped the United States and had an impact globally. It also uses personal anecdotes to emphasize the academic discussion. I find this book particularly compelling as we all confront racism, sexism, and intersectionality. It made me question my views and how I would have responded in a particular situation. It also gave me a better understanding of the author’s experiences as a Black woman facing the world, and how those experiences are different from mine.

From Stephenie's list on advocates and activists.

Masterful, profoundly humane, and impeccably researched. Wilkerson creates a light-bulb moment, by taking the Indian caste system and overlaying it onto the generational subjugation of Black Americans. This book doesn’t preach – it presents: gripping our hearts with real-life stories; haunting us with the unjust laws and social practices which have ensured inequality and poverty, no matter how hard black Americans worked. A poisonous system weakening and dividing the nation. Caste profoundly changes our personal understanding of American racism. 

From Ravinder's list on by writers of colour.

We tend to associate the idea of caste with faraway or traditional cultures such as that of India, or more hideously as during the Nazi era in Germany. Wilkerson reveals the presence and persistence of caste across American society, and poignantly distinguishes it from racism, though both fueled by intolerance. For Wilkerson, caste is “in the bones” of a society, less visible but intrinsic, while race is reflected in things like the color of skin, at once superficial but supportive of the unseen yet intrinsic nature of caste. So, the lesson, as the book makes it clear, is that it…

The stories and facts immerse you in a narrative about real people, race, class, and caste. Going between being a sponge soaking up the information and squirming in your chair, you are moved to find opportunities for personal change. Masterfully written and documented, I will not look at American life and the stratification of people in the same way.

Isabel Wilkerson explains why the Nazis picked on the American system of “raciality” as a model for their most serious work. I think it would enable most non-Fascist-minded Americans an opportunity to understand where their friends, relatives, neighbors, sons and daughters, are coming from. And square them away.

She brings clarity to why some people say and believe there never has been institutional racism in Amerikkka. Reading her book shows you how insidious societal norms are. She takes away the blinders and we get to see another big lie that we have sought to embrace -- if – “We hold…

From Odie's list on understanding the human condition.

This book helped me understand the underlying problem of racism by comparing this country's barriers to the caste system in India. Although there were vast differences, there are many similarities between the two countries. Chief among them, the establishment's desire to keep those considered "less than" "in their place." Wilkerson provided a gut-check level of clarity to the definition of “white privilege.” An important and deeply moving read.

From Diane's list on racism in the USA.

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