February 14th, 2021


Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (5 star)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson

I found this an enlightening and inspiring book. Although I see myself as racist and will form a judgement on people in first encountering them, with race being one of the factors affecting that judgement, I try to curtail that reaction before it becomes an external action. But I′ve never been able to clearly identify why I have that reaction in the first place.
By positioning racism within the framework of caste, it gave me a completely different viewpoint on how it is a consequence of the society we live in. In some ways I was able to relate it to Class which I have more experience with in the UK, but as the author says ″If you can act your way out of it, then it is class, not caste.″ Using the historical example of Nazi Germany, and the ongoing caste struggles in India, gave a wider perspective on prejudice which at the same time illuminated the specifics of it in Western culture – mainly American but I think it applies more widely.

The idea of caste in America is not a new one, which the author acknowledges with reference to previous writing in this area, but she lays out the evidence in clear and well-argued prose. At times this seems a problem too big to solve, but near the end of the book is a small anecdote, which suggests that forming small connections, can make small steps towards progress.
This is the second book I′ve read by this author. They were both about difficult, complex subjects, but she writes about them in such an engrossing way that they are never tedious.

I had a copy of this book early through Netgalley.