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Isabel Wilkerson’s new book gives us an immersive, detailed portrait of the unseen phenomenon in America’s narrative. The phenomenon? The ways that America today and throughout history have been shaping its people with a hidden caste system, an unspoken but unmoving hierarchy.

She goes further as she links and compares the American caste system to those of India and Nazi Germany. Themes of

divine will, bloodline, stigma, among others, are revealed as consistent ideas behind these hierarchical powers. With accounts from Martin Luther King Jr. to baseball’s Satchel Paige, to a single father and his toddler son, and even Wilkerson herself, along many others, she shows the ways that the oppressive system of caste is experienced casually in every day life. Wilkerson documents how the Nazis studied the American racial systems to plan their out-cast of the Jews, and discusses why the cruel logic of the system requires there to be a bottom rung for the middle classes to compare themselves with. The health costs of caste, depression, life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics are also shown, unfiltered in this book. Wilkerson does however, point forward to ways America can work beyond and tear down the artificial and destructive systems of human division, in the hopes of connecting us to our common humanity.

Deeply thought, original, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is a revealing story of peoples and histories, as it evaluates what influences how American life functions today.

Purchase the book here.