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Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

“It made the back of my neck prickle from its first pages, and that feeling never went away” – THE NEW YORK TIMES
OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • 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.
“[Caste] should be at the top of every American’s reading list.”—Chicago Tribune

$14.99 $8.99

Book Details

ISBN

9780593230268

Language

English

Pages

496

Publisher

Random House Books for Young Readers

Released

August 4, 2020

About The Author

Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, tells the story of the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize and was shortlisted for both the Pen-Galbraith Literary Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

WARMTH was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times' 10 Best Books of the Year, Amazon's 5 Best Books of the Year and Best of the Year lists in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Economist, among others. It made national news when President Obama chose the book for summer reading in 2011. In 2012, The New York Times Magazine named Warmth to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.

Her second book, CASTE: The Origins of Our Discontents, explores the unrecognized hierarchy in the America, its history and its consequences. Caste became an instant New York Times bestseller, was named the summer/fall selection for Oprah’s legendary Book Club and was longlisted for the National Book Award.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history."

She has appeared on national programs such as "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," CBS's "60 Minutes," NBC's "Nightly News," "The PBS News Hour," MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” NPR's "On Being with Krista Tippett," the BBC and others. She has taught at Princeton, Emory and Boston universities and has lectured at more than 200 other colleges and universities across the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents


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 a 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.

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