The Origins of Our Discontents

Book - 2020
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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.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2020]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780593230251
Branch Call Number: 305.5122 W652
Characteristics: xvii, 476 pages ; 25 cm


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Sep 18, 2020

As an initial skeptic to the concept of caste, this book surprised me and shone a light on some of my most deeply held assumptions about myself, my own interactions, and my own place within the U.S., even as a middle caste person, about which the book speaks relatively little. Every time I've tried to avoid tanning out of a dislike of looking darker, cheerfully told a stranger my parents' heritage to satisfy his/her curiosity of where I'm "really from," or been surprised about someone presenting a certain way or having a certain kind of job/education/status - I am casteist and have been swimming in a sea of casteism.

Admittedly, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents focuses more on theory, persuasive rhetoric, and insightful storytelling than data and practical solutions, which may turn off some people. Yet for me, it's the first explanation that really encompasses why we act and think the way that we do, often subconsciously, in relation to other American castes to preserve our designated rank/place. What a paradigm-shifting game changer.

debwalker Aug 31, 2020

Down to the roots of racism.

Aug 24, 2020

Rather unsubstantiated claims on Nazi Germany and USA similarity. Only someone who haven't lived in Nazi country or socialist country could make such claims.

Aug 10, 2020

In her newest project, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson provides us with a new terminology to diagnose America's race/class oppression: caste. She weaves three strands of history to argue her case: the long-existing and most recognizable caste system in India, Aryan supremacy and the subordination of Jews in Nazi Germany, and the infrastructure of inequality and inequity that has persisted in the United States since the transatlantic slave trade.

Something I learned from this book that I don't want to forget is that the Nazi regime initially looked to the United States for guidance regarding discrimination and race-based laws. The Nazis observed that the U.S. was succeeding in maintaining the racial caste system during Jim Crow, and traveled here to research miscegenation, housing discrimination, and disenfranchisement laws.

Once again, Wilkerson has built us a lens through which we can analyze, atone for, and improve our society -- and so we best use it. This is an essential history book that challenges and replaces the falsehoods of our education.

Aug 10, 2020

Compares the sorting of people into castes in America, India and Nazi Germany, looking at the causes and consequences for those cast to the lower end of the hierarchy.

Another fine work of social history and good reading for the times we are living in. While I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know, it was fascinating seeing the parallels described and compared in one setting. Reading this gives me another way of viewing the American scene. My hope is that my own awareness grows. I thought we were better than this.

Aug 09, 2020

America is not so different from India or Nazi Germany. Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns) knows firsthand what it is like to be Black, intelligent and ignored. She continually points to how similar the treatment of Blacks is to the treatment of Dalits in India and the Jews in Nazi Germany. Using individual stories, she points out how the abstract theory of the caste system is used. It is not just the social status she looks at; she also explores the social status. I was surprised to learn that only 22 percent of African Americans live in poverty. The news paints an entirely different picture. She also points out that the net worth of white families is nearly 10 times as big as the average Black family. This book was beautifully written but painful to read.

Aug 04, 2020

Oprah book club choice Aug 2020

Aug 03, 2020

Aug 03, 2020

Obviously, ordering hard copies of this book that nobody will have access to during a pandemic is silly--perhaps you could order 30 ebook copies instead OR in addition to?


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