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'The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power - which groups have it and which do not'
Beyond race or class, our lives are defined by a powerful, unspoken system of divisions. In Caste, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson gives an astounding portrait of this hidden phenomenon. Linking America, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson reveals how our world has been shaped by caste - and how its rigid, arbitrary hierarchies still divide us today.
With clear-sighted rigour, Wilkerson unearths the eight pillars that connect caste systems across civilizations, and demonstrates how our own era of intensifying conflict and upheaval has arisen as a consequence of caste. Weaving in stories of real people, she shows how its insidious undertow emerges every day; she documents its surprising health costs; and she explores its effects on culture and politics. Finally, Wilkerson points forward to the ways we can - and must - move beyond its artificial divisions, towards our common humanity.
Beautifully written and deeply original, Caste is an eye-opening examination of what lies beneath the surface of ordinary lives. No one can afford to ignore the moral clarity of its insights, or its urgent call for a freer, fairer world.
© Isabel Wilkerson 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020
Magnificent. Profound. Eye-opening. Sobering. Hopeful.
Extraordinary ... an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far ... It made the back of my neck prickle from its first pages, and that feeling never went away. Wilkerson has written a closely-argued book that largely avoids the word "racism," yet stares it down with more humanity and rigor than nearly all but a few books in our literature. It's a book that seeks to shatter a paralysis of will. It's a book that changes the weather inside a reader.
Surprising and arresting... the idea of caste challenges fundamental notions of America as a meritocratic society ... Wilkerson's epilogue feels like a prayer for a country in pain, offering new directions through prophetic new language
Persuasive and unsettling ... beneath the veneer of meritocratic idealism lie deeper layers of the American psyche where white supremacy still reigns. But the case Wilkerson puts forward is inspiring and hopeful ... caste can be dismantled, setting everyone free.
Isabel Wilkerson's Caste is probably the most important piece of non-fiction published this year.
An expansive interrogation of racism, institutionalised inequality and injustice ... This is an American reckoning and so it should be. Wilkerson activates history in her pages, bringing all its horror and possibility to light. It is a painfully resonant book and could not have come at a more urgent time.
Important and timely ... America does not merely have a problem with "race", but it is also haunted by the ugly issue of caste, a set of embedded practices that presume it is natural - and correct - to divide humans into different groups and keep them in a hierarchy. ... If repudiation of past assumptions is the first step towards healing, Wilkerson's book offers a powerful frame for this. It is essential reading for anybody who feels angry, guilty or threatened by the tangled issue of "race" in America today.
There is a deeper and more intractable system that hides behind the chimera of race, and that system is properly called American caste ... Wilkerson's book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it.
Magnificent . . . a trailblazing work on the birth of inequality . . . Caste offers a forward-facing vision. Bursting with insight and love, this book may well help save us
Wilkerson's genius as a writer is her ability to tell you the big story of what happened, but to make that story matter by linking it to the lives of those who survived it. That is, to me, her unique contribution: what in the hands of another writer would feel like an abstraction attains, in her work, the vividness and emotional power of lived experience.