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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste is consistently powerful, profound, disturbing, and absolutely necessary nonfiction reading from the brilliant Isabel Wilkerson.

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”

In Caste, Wilkerson explores the unspoken, entrenched caste system in the United States--a hierarchical system that has dictated the fates of those in our country more powerfully than traditionally considered factors such as race or class.

I read Caste with a group and met every other week to discuss it--and we went months past our original end date because there was so much to consider and reflect upon. Wilkerson is exceptional at laying out absurdities, horrors, disturbing historical events, shocking trends, and problematic tendencies without layering emotion or drama on top of any of it, leaving the reader to bring the appropriate emotion and discomfort to the matters Wilkerson presents.

“Caste is insidious and therefore powerful because it is not hatred, it is not necessarily personal. It is the worn grooves of comforting routines and unthinking expectations, patterns of a social order that have been in place for so long that it looks like the natural order of things.”

I was in danger of using up all my highlighters while endlessly trying to mark small portions of Wilkerson's consistently profound reflections.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Isabel Wilkerson is a journalist and is also the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration.


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