The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson has written an immediate classic with Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. The veteran journalist examines race in America through the prism of caste, comparing the rigid system that suppresses Black people in the U.S. to the social systems that have ruled India and Nazi Germany. The analysis—based on reporting, historical analysis and a few personal anecdotes—comes at a crucial time in American history, and Wilkerson offers a frame to understand, among other dominant topics in American discourse, why white working-class citizens are “voting against their interests” and turning to Donald Trump. She argues that these voters, long members of the uppermost caste regardless of economic standing, perceive recent social and political advancements by Black Americans as a threat to their social status. In America, Wilkerson argues, social advancement is a zero sum game: If a member of the lower caste advances up the rungs of the ladder, then inevitably a member of the uppermost caste finds himself demoted. It’s a fascinating conception, and undeniably timely.

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