Audiobook, Black Author, Books, History, Non-Fiction, Politics, Social Justice

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is a great read for someone who’s trying to dip their toes into race politics and social justice

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars (4.5, rounded down)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is a nonfiction book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson that describes racism in the United States as an aspect of a caste system (like those found in India and Nazi Germany) and the impact of caste on the societies and people shaped by them. According to Wilkerson, “caste is the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” She argues “what some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system.”

I listened to the unabridged audiobook version, which clocks in at about 14.5 hours and is narrated by Robin Miles. Wilkerson’s prose is very engaging and easy to parse, and Miles is always a good listen. This book would be a great read for someone who’s trying to dip their toes into race politics and social justice, since it’s so approachable (though heed the CWs below).

The first part of the book (Chapters 1-3) feels like an extended introduction. She deftly uses evocative language to paint a detailed landscape of various analogies, including the description of the United States as an old house, where the work is never done and any further deterioration is in our own hands. Much of this book is personal and visceral, which I personally love in non-fiction.

Content Warning (CW): There are some graphic descriptions of violence towards people of color, especially towards the end of Part Two. Skip Chapter 9 completely if this type of content is not for you. There’s more in Part Three. I read this book one part at a time, and made sure to read more fluffy stuff in between sessions.

I initially started reading this book as part of a nonfiction book club spearheaded by JessOwens from booktube. Check her out! I finished it as part of Non-Fiction November.

Something to look forward to is that Ava DuVernay is set to direct, write, and produce a feature film adaptation of this book for Netflix. I’m really interested in seeing what they create.

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