The Origins of Our Discontents

Book - 2020/08
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity. Print run 100,000.
Publisher: Random House 2020/08
ISBN: 9780593230251


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Oct 23, 2020

A basic rule of journalism is : If it bleeds, it reads. The Warmth of Other Suns was outstanding. This book, though, as mentioned by other comments was a chronicle of abuses and warped attitudes displayed in slave holding states, carried over for years after the Civil War. The barbs against President Trump without the balance of the administration's positive financial improvement of African Americans seemed politically motivated. The last chapter was the only ray of hope in the book. The abuses will bring tears to your eyes and it is a call to examine our hearts and minds personally. And the story motivates to awareness and responsibility to create a loving community of respect for all. I would also recommend a book that deals with Immigration called Welcoming the Stranger that is also in this library.

Sep 25, 2020

This is a good history book on institutionalized systemic racism, casteism, etc... in general, not only as an institution of the the USA, but also from India, for example. Provides verifiable context for not only America's crime, but Hitler's Germany and India's system as well. It does not necessarily provide one with the answers to how we solve, mitigate, etc... this issue... again, its more of a history book that allows all of us context to move forward.

Sep 25, 2020

CASTE is a sobering, thought-provoking, gut-wrenching masterpiece. Hard to read at times, it is impeccably researched and presented by author Isabel Wilkerson. Blending historical research, individual stories, and personal experience, Wilkerson makes the case that America has long operated under a powerful caste system that shares some of the same qualities of the infamous caste systems of India and Nazi Germany. Brilliant, timely, and current in its scope, CASTE is one of my top reads of 2020.

Sep 24, 2020

I know that I will be in a tiny minority but after The Warmth of Other Suns I found this book disappointing and at times irritating. It's not about the subject matter which seems to be something of a shocker or new info for the major reviewers. Really? Unless you have your eyes and mind closed to the reality of this country - origin stories and currently - she put it all together well but would prefer The End of the Myth.

What I find irritating is what is evidently the "thing" now - run text in pages of italics. And never refer to specific people - early on with Trump and Clinton by name. As I said in the beginning, I gave The Warmth as a gift to friends on several occasions - black and white friends - and couldn't wait for this one. Great information, all pulled together, but missing her high mark.

Sep 22, 2020

From the author of "The Warmth of Other Suns," this book, which compares the racial structure in America with the caste system in India and the Jews under Nazi Germany, is sure to provoke and start conversations. She submits everything to her thesis and there are some weaknesses in her arguments, but her mix of personal anecdote, scholarship, and striking examples, this is a book for our moment. Might consider reading this "Stamped from the Beginning."

Sep 19, 2020

One of the must reads of 2020 and every year for that matter for every single American no matter what your race is. You cannot understand what it means to be American without the perspective this book provides. To know that we are literally the only country on earth in human history to have built its caste system based on color of ones skin is mind blowing, sad and frankly disgusting. I was blown away by how our country has literally been built politically, socially and economically on slavery and racism, and that to this day black people everywhere are still fighting it. No wonder their is anger, pain and suffering. I would be pissed, too!!! Discontent is too soft a word. Superbly written, researched, fact-based, with both real world and also personal experiences living as a black woman in America, this is captivating, sobering book on being black in America that will keep you thinking long after you put it down. It will change the way you see things for good. And that's the only way, if we all read books like this and become aware of the workings of the caste system in America, we have any hope of atoning and moving forward. Don't expect the election of 2020 to make a difference, to be the answer to all of our race problems. The one thing that I wish that this book did provide was more of a blueprint on how we could actually move forward as a country. She does provide some potential solutions towards the end, much like they did in Nazi Germany, but you are left feeling at the end that hope is going to be hard to come by.

Sep 18, 2020

As an initial skeptic to the concept of caste, this book surprised me and shone a light on some of my most deeply held assumptions about myself, my own interactions, and my own place within the U.S., even as a middle caste person, about which the book speaks relatively little. Every time I've tried to avoid tanning out of a dislike of looking darker, cheerfully told a stranger my parents' heritage to satisfy his/her curiosity of where I'm "really from," or been surprised about someone presenting a certain way or having a certain kind of job/education/status - I am casteist and have been swimming in a sea of casteism.

Admittedly, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents focuses more on theory, persuasive rhetoric, and insightful storytelling than data and practical solutions, which may turn off some people. Yet for me, it's the first explanation that really encompasses why we act and think the way that we do, often subconsciously, in relation to other American castes to preserve our designated rank/place. What a paradigm-shifting game changer.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Sep 14, 2020

A thoroughly researched and very readable look at the United States which draws clear lines to the caste structure in India and the legal structures created in Nazi Germany. TW: graphic descriptions of lynchings, which are critical to the text, but could be traumatic for some readers.

debwalker Aug 31, 2020

Down to the roots of racism.

Aug 27, 2020

Wilkerson puts a comprehensive and well researched narrative to the meaning of caste systems in Nazi Germany, India, and the US- how it began, how it played out, and it's social implications. I kept saying "Oh, my God!" This book should not only be read by all but put into our academic curriculum. There are too many notes to even begin to put in a review. Read it!

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Sep 25, 2020

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.” - p. 386

Sep 25, 2020

“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. It is about resources—which caste is seen as worthy of them and which are not, who gets to acquire and control them and who does not. It is about respect, authority, and assumptions of competence—who is accorded these and who is not.” - pp. 17-18

Sep 25, 2020

“America is an old house. We can never declare the work over. Wind, flood, drought, and human upheavals batter a structure that is already fighting whatever flaws were left unattended in the original foundation. When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.” - pp. 15-16

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number



Find it at SQPL

To Top