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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

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 civilisations 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.

©2020 Isabel Wilkerson (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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Brilliant book that should be required reading

Being of Indian origin I am only too aware of Caste and the pernicious nature thereof. It was revelatory to have caste applied to the American condition. I was engrossed from beginning to end. Be prepared to be put through a gamut of emotions, ranging from aching sadness to visceral rage at the treatment of our African American brothers and sisters at the hands of the dominant caste (white people). Such treatment spans slavery, Jim Crow through to the present day. I sincerely hope that this book is made required reading in schools, colleges and Universities in the US. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A masterpiece. Thank you Isabel Wilkerson for your tour de force. In Solidarity.

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A must read.

A must read for all who want to give humanity its best chance.

Get over yourself and get into the book.

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Essential to one's education

The grim skeleton of the structural racism that haunts and frames modern American life is laid bare here. This book presents clearly the effect of the human impulse to create hierarchy and then to raise up that creation to quasi-religious status so that it may not be questioned or properly seen, understood and demolished. That American society should be held in a self-reinforcing vicious cycle that blinkers 'good people' to the cause of the malaise in their country, and simultaneously allows a moneyed elite to profiteer from the discord sown and cultivated between groups even as ALL are being sold an unattainable, unsustainable 'American Dream' is saddening beyond words. Wanting to persist with a child's faith in the fairytale of one's nation's history is a sign of immaturity: it's time to stop patronising so many people by not challenging this fantasy. It is my sincere hope that my fellow human beings on the far side of the Atlantic can rise to the hyperbole of the marketing of the USA as the 'land of the free'. Reading this book may just help some citizens to discover the 'matrix' and begin to find a way out of it.

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Enlightening read about why we are where we are.

This is an essential read. At times I gasped for air to absorb the extent to the systematic dehumanization of African American people. And, yet as the moral scaffolding of our nation chips away, the book shines a light at how factors interact to create the social conditions in which the souls of those who strive for superiority degrade to an unthinkable pit of the human condition. This book will make you reflect on how your interactions, verbal and nonverbal, speak to who you are and aspire for the world to be.

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a must read,

a must read, then share. vital in these unsettling times of caste and class stratification

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Painful but necessary.

Some of the anecdotes are painful to listen to but we need to hear them.

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Brilliant!

A well written, clear and compelling read. I’m sickened by some of the content but more educated for reading this brilliant book.

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Must read

I read a lot - about 30-40 books a year.

This is one of the most powerful non-fiction books I’ve ever read.

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  • 03-05-21

Uncomfortable but brilliant

Brings together the Holocaust, racial segregation in the US and the caste system in India. Eye opening and informative. Author's personal experiences of prejudice (both verbal and physical) uncomfortable but honest. Highly recommended listen

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Essential anti-racist reading for those that belie

Essential anti-racist reading for those that believe that racism doesn't exist and we should stop talking about it. Mind expanding.

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  • Thobi
  • 09-01-21

Truly “the lies that divide us”

I would recommend this book for everyone. The oppressed and the not oppressed. We can not change anything about the past but we can change the present and the future. As a black South African reading this book I found it helped shine the light on some reprogramming I may need to do in how I see myself and my abilities. But it also gave me insight on why the constitution says I’m free and yet do not feel free most times. It’s given me the courage to work out my freedom, reprogram my mind with intentionality. It is also helping me understand why some people still behave a particular way. Not to excuse the behavior but to understand it will be a process to unlearn.

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  • Audible Customer
  • 08-01-21

A Serious Study of Race

Caste by Isabel Wilkersin is a study of race, its social, economic, and political manifestations. Unlike "The Warmth of Other Suns" which looks at migration within the United States, "Caste" draws a lot of references from the international experience. I would recommend the book for University level studies, but it does not make for at home listening for relaxation. Race is an extremely vexing subject; it is upsetting, disturbing, and often opens lots of wounds.

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  • Hem
  • 01-07-21

Thought provoking - must read!

An astonishing book beautifully narrated. I was fully absorbed, moved by every word. This book provides deep context about the world we live in and how we got here.

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  • John Brown
  • 08-05-21

The more peopke who read this book the better!

Caste is the infinitely levelled hierarchical structure within which any person treats themselves as better and more deserving than another on the basis of arbitrary characteristics such as skin pigmentation, sex, age, ancestry, religion, or whatever. While this book unapologeticly focuses on the history, operation, and future of caste in the USA, - with reflection on the hindu caste system in Indian, and the caste system of Nazi Germany, as well as reflection on the Obama and Trump administrations and pending minority status of 'whites' within the USA within decades - , it contains much on which to reflect regarding the operation of caste in any part of the world.

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  • Dinesh Suna
  • 15-04-21

My best non-fiction ever…read/listened to it twice

My best non-fiction ever…read/listened to it twice already and can't stop for the third time

Caution: This review is going to be a tad longer


This was my first book on audible. I only used audible for my child to put him to sleep. Then I realized that I had got some credits to buy some books. I had heard about Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and some rave reviews. So I didn't think twice before buying it in exchange for a credit. That was the best decision of my life! In less than three days, I completed the book. Such a powerful book, with a very strong and fitting narrative on audible by the brilliant Robin Miles (the same reader of Isabel's other book: The Warmth of Other Sun).


So, to start with, I am an Indian. So as explained in the book, Caste is built into the very system of we Indians…no Indian can ever escape Caste or the term. So, it obviously caught my attention. I was all the more curious as I always thought Caste and race are though intertwined, they are very different from each other. Any Indian would vouch that Caste is not only about race, but it is much more than that. Besides, Casteism in India is based on the “Varna System” based on occupation and descent, whereas racism is about skin colour at least from the binary of black and white people. Isabel lifted the veil from my eyes and enabled me to see that it is the same repulsive hierarchy that divides people into dominant and subordinate categories, which in India we would call it Casteism and in USA it is called racism. But it is an inherent problem of dehumanizing other fellow human beings on the basis of superficial physiological traits such as skin colour, with a motive to exploit and rule over them.

When Isabel was narrating one after the other well-researched incidences of atrocities of the African Americans at the hands of the dominant caste/ the whites in America, I could recall exact experiences of the lowest caste/outcasts of India – the "untouchables" or the "Dalits". When she narrates how the slaves in the Jim Crow era in southern America were not allowed to go to schools, to read or write or to read to their own children, not allowed to go to church, not allowed to read the Bible, not allowed to eat/sit/travel together with the “dominant caste”/whites/slave owners/Masters, it sounded as if she is talking about the Dalits /”lower caste” vs the “upper caste” in India. How the restaurants would break the glasses after a black person drinks from it, how the whites demand to empty the swimming pools after a black has entered it, how the innocent love of a black boy for a white girl can be a reason for his lynching, how the crowd cherished the lynching of blacks, how the slaves could be punished with whiplashes at will, how the black slaves were made “guinea pigs” for the medical inventions by white doctors, and many more instances narrated in this book, has uncanny similarities of atrocities meted out to the Dalits for over three millennia in India’s Caste system.

The story of a teacher's experiment about the blue-eyed vs the brown-eyed children goes on to demonstrate how we as human beings can so quickly start abusing the other when the differences in the others are pointed out to us, even at that young age.

Like in the USA, the whites were / are predominantly better off financially, intellectually and otherwise for historical reasons; in India, the so-called "upper caste" constitute a large majority in economics, politics, executive, judiciary, media, education and religious affairs.

The parallels are drawn between the Jim Crow south of USA, the Nazis in Germany and the Caste system of India are brilliantly done. What connects all three different forms of discrimination is dehumanizing a particular community of people to exploit them at will for their own benefit. In all three cases, there is strong internalization of being discriminated against, which makes the victims immune to this inhuman treatment /torture wherein the latter start to think they are destined to this fate of theirs.

The book begins and also ends with the 2016 elections…how the seeds of hatred that were sown years ago and that was suppressed through the civil rights movements erupted when a “conducive” environment was created in Trump’s victory in the 2016 elections. In that connection, the analogy of anthrax released from the Siberian permafrost due to the extreme summer heat impacting the native population is simply brilliant.

The book ends with a strong pitch for a world without Caste.

Get your copy, printed or audio versions, and I bet you will not be disappointed. Do not be carried away by some negative reviews. I strongly feel, most of them would invariably fall into the "dominant caste" category. I would invite them to read another brilliant book on racism, "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

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  • Mooketsi
  • 01-04-21

Amazing

This book lays bare the systematic building of racism and how human beings have been divided by color alone. Very interesting parallels between the Indian castes and western social hierarchy.

Robin Mile gives a stunning performance with an almost chilling voice as she recounts Isabels experiences 👌🏽

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  • Sridhar
  • 20-02-21

Excellent analysis through the prism of Caste

Isabel Wilkerson's analysis of divisions within America through the prism of Caste is thought-provoking. She methodically details the eight pillars of caste and how the dominant caste uses them to subjugate the subordinate one. As an Indian, I can relate to the comparisons made to the Caste system that has kept Dalits as subordinate and the system of treating blacks as less than human in the USA. This is a must-read for everyone who cares about humanity in the 21st century.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • N. Cottle
  • 31-12-20

Super powerful book that opened my eyes

Loved it. It helped reframe things and gave me a chance to look at my NZ context through a different lens.

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  • Emily
  • 22-11-20

Kind words from a Powerful Book

Isabel masterfully took me through an American History class. It is costly when a majority of Americans do not embrace their country's true past for the last 400 years that has seen the black minority degraded in all spheres of their lives. It's sad to see that the country is still struggling to agree to work on this vice. If America successfully ends Caste. I think you will become unstoppable because all people from all creeds, shape and color will truly be free to become all they were created to be.

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  • Catalin
  • 13-11-20

Superb

I just finished listening this beautiful manifesto for a better world. Superbly written and excellently documented, this book must be read by anyone wishing to become a better human.