05 Oct / Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson [in Booklist]
In writing her now-classic The Warmth of Other Suns (2010), Pulitzer-Prized (and first Black woman so honored) Isabel Wilkerson reveals in her highly anticipated follow-up, “while working on … Suns, I was not writing about geography and relocation, but about the American caste system, an artificial hierarchy in which most everything that you could and could not do was based upon what you looked like.” The already Oprah-anointed bestseller couldn’t be more timely – amidst the relentless devolution of political leadership, pandemic, police violence, and widespread protests, Wilkerson’s latest is both exposé and antidote.
Veteran narrator Robin Miles provides a well-tuned aural amplifier. Thoughtful and controlled, Miles ensures Wilkerson is succinctly heard: “Caste is the bones, race the skin …Caste is the powerful infrastructure that holds each group in place.” Unmasking disturbing parallels with caste systems in India (illegal-but-socially-extant) and Nazi Germany (where the U.S.’s ‘one-drop rule’ was deemed too harsh!), Wilkerson confronts oppressive U.S. hierarchies of inequity.
Alas, while virtually every sentence is pithily quotable, Wilkerson’s tendency to repeat and prolong her brilliant ideas could grow tedious. That said, to be fed illuminating ideas on repeat gives hope that awareness solidifies to promulgate lasting change.