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Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  890 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
In this remarkable and elegant work, acclaimed Yale Law School professor Kenji Yoshino fuses legal manifesto and poetic memoir to call for a redefinition of civil rights in our law and culture.

Everyone covers. To cover is to downplay a disfavored trait so as to blend into the mainstream. Because all of us possess stigmatized attributes, we all encounter pressure to cover i
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Paperback, 282 pages
Published February 20th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2006)
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Emma Sea
gorgeous. is there such a thing as a non-fiction prose poem? because that's what this is.

Rebecca Radnor
While I like the book and find it to be VERY well written, I find it thought provoking in that I seriously disagree with its central premise.

We had this as assigned reading in a class on Asian American issues. The author is law professor who started out as grad student in creative writing. Having previously attended law school myself, I have got to rank this as one of the best written books on a legal topic I've ever read. The book charts the authors personal path, both as an Asian American nego
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Rob
Nov 30, 2014 Rob rated it did not like it
I did not miss the point of this book, that we should be free to express ourselves as we see fit. I do disagree with much of it, however. Throughout all ages and societies, there have been norms of behavior and action. Are all of these right? No. Not all of them are wrong, however.

I do not disagree that there are individuals in our society who feel oppressed. I agree that we should be able to express ourselves. We should feel free to embrace what we enjoy.

However, to what extent should this expr
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Lubna
Mar 17, 2008 Lubna rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in civil rights and the gay rights movement
First came passing, then the imperative to assimilate to a white ideal, and now the new civil rights challenge of our time, according to the author, is forcing people to 'cover' or tamp down on their expressions of personhood, i.e. telling gays not to 'flaunt', asking the religious not to be so visible in their belief, or asking minority groups to not act so different. An interesting look at this new phenomenon - the book's first half discusses this from the perspective of gay rights and then br ...more
Jim
Jul 19, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
Yoshino got the title word of his book from the sociologist Erving Goffman's book, Stigma. "Published in 1963, the book describes how various groups - including the disabled, the elderly, and the obese - manage their 'spoiled' identities. After discussing passing, Goffman observes that 'persons who are ready to admit possession of a stigma...may nonetheless make a great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.' He calls this behavior 'covering.'"

The book focuses mainly on gay covering, raci
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Lisa
Dec 28, 2007 Lisa rated it it was ok
So far, the main issues this of this book are 1) The author's horrible prose considering his oft mentioned background in poetry and english literature and 2) the unneeded extensive autobiography. A quick thumb through the book shows that of the 282 pages, only 200 pages are devoted to the concept of "covering" and of those 200 pages, 27 pages are of his excruciatingly written backstory. But, I'm still hoping that once he begins fully explaining "covering" and various cases that correspond to it, ...more
Puck
Sep 30, 2016 Puck rated it it was amazing
My therapist recommended this book to me and I can see why. While few people are making assimilation or conversion demands on me, I walk through the world endlessly bombarded with covering demands. I highly recommend that everyone read this book, whether you belong to a marginalized group or not.
Larry-bob Roberts
Mar 23, 2009 Larry-bob Roberts rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Most people are familiar with conversion (see ex-gays) and being closeted; law professor Kenji Yoshino is working on examining a third, more subtle demand on non-conforming people: covering (a concept introduced by Erving Goffman in Stigma Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Even if someone is openly gay, they may still tone down their behavior. Yoshino also covers racial covering and sex-based covering, the latter of which is even more complex, since women may be called on both to cove ...more
Dusty
Dec 24, 2008 Dusty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: Warren Ilchman
Shelves: read-in-2008
Kenji Yoshino is an up-and-coming east-coast professor of law. And "covering" is a term he plucked out of academic obscurity to refer to the legion of demands placed on people who are different but who are asked to tone down or erase those differences in order to get ahead in the Great White (Straight) Society. Yoshino's contention is that, at the threshold of the 21st Century, the United States has grown out of its inclination to assimilate/convert people of difference ("You're gay? Well, stop ...more
Elizabeth
Aug 09, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Yoshino writes of "covering," a fascinating concept that not only allows him to explore the current state of civil rights, but describe a method of being in the world that, while common among gays and other minority groups, will likely resonate with any reader. Fifty years ago, gays were asked to convert, to renounce their homosexuality as a pathological symptom or religiously problematic. Today, gays are asked to *cover* -- to push down the aspects of their appearance or behavior that don't con ...more
Chrystal
This is a very different style of book from those that I usually read. It was a book chosen as the freshman reading book for the university where I work, and I wanted to get a sense of what the cool kids (read: nerdy kids) are reading these days. It was a book that I wished went deeper. I think it was very valuable to define a term that is not something I was familiar with academically but definitely experience on a regular basis as a person of multi-layered and generally minority/less privilege ...more
Kendra
Aug 26, 2015 Kendra rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. Although I appreciate the personal nature of Yoshino's thoughts on covering, I think foregrounding his own experience actually leads to him ignoring or not contemplating the experience of other marginalized people. He also has some serious problems with how he construes the "choice to assimilate" in the book, often decrying it in one chapter and requiring it in another.
Aron
Jan 30, 2009 Aron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who want to puruse human flourishing without limitations based on bias.
"I argue for a new civil rights paradigm that moves away from group-based equality rights toward universal liberty rights, and away from legal solutions toward social solutions.

* * *

"The aspiration of civil rights has always been to permit people to pursue their human flourishing without limitations based on bias."
Anna
Apr 15, 2007 Anna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007reads
i'm not sure what glitch caused this book to have a rating of 1005.5, but it's certainly worth it. poignant, moving, persuasive, yoshino entertwines personal narrative with insightful anaylsis on social pressures of sexual minorities to hid, pass, and then cover.
Will
Oct 24, 2016 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Yoshino's writing style can be too flowery and metaphorical for my taste when he writes autobiographically, but his argument on "covering" is a brilliant expansion on what, in the 60s, Milton Gordon called "Anglo-conformity." Here, Yoshino writes critically about the "progress" of minority acculturation, in which "individuals no longer need to be white, male, straight, Protestant, and able-bodied; they need only to act white, male, straight, Protestant, and able-bodied." One point I thought was ...more
Jun Grapefruit
Dec 15, 2016 Jun Grapefruit rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. This book seamlessly combines both autobiography and legal scholarship, and a key aspect in understanding the book is to put ourselves in the shoes of a traditionally disadvantaged group. IMHO, always easier to tell someone to *grow a pair* than having to endure the experience.
Would highly recommend it to anyone.
Steph
This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.

Yoshino's book is a treasure for the sake of his coming out story alone. I am always amazed by the unconditional acceptance that parents can be capable of.
Jeannie
Dec 13, 2016 Jeannie rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Personal. Urgent. Powerful. The demands placed on various populations to act or not act traditionally cost us all.
Hayley Kazlauskas
Oct 17, 2016 Hayley Kazlauskas rated it liked it
Lots of legal jargon.
Ana
Dec 12, 2016 Ana rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Although I enjoyed the book. I have a few problems with it. The book is very well written, perhaps one of the better written books I have read this year. However, I can’t help but view “covering” as something we all do because we all need to live in society. Another form of “Survival of the fittest.”

I couldn't help but feel as if we keep looking for more reasons to place labels on ourselves. Why is it necessary to have a label? Just because I choose to try to get rid of my accent doesn't mean I
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Heron
Mar 08, 2013 Heron rated it it was amazing
Covering is an argument for a new direction of civil rights advocacy: protecting individuals’ ability to live their full selves in our society. Yoshino argues that as much as we should protect minority populations from facing discrimination because of the color of their skin or who they love, we should not require individuals to “cover” the characteristics that align them with their minority population: traditional African-American hairdos, for example, or lack of makeup for a less stereotypical ...more
Justin
Apr 23, 2008 Justin rated it it was amazing
I read this a few months ago, but am just reviewing it now. This is because I'm way ahead of schedule at work and somewhat bored. So there you go.

Rarely have I read a contemporary author with such mastery of the English language, discerning intellect, and heartfelt spirit of advocacy. A former English scholar (PhD?), law student, and now professor at Yale, Yoshino beautifully articulates the unfortunate phenomena of "covering" -- an individual's attempting to mask traits which makes him or her d
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Jennifer
Jul 09, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: wucc
I really enjoyed this book, and think it would be really helpful for more people to read. I felt he did a good job of explaining ways that he and others have felt as minorities, as well as trying to broaden the ideas to apply to everyone in some way.

He started the book focused on his gay identity, and then moved to race and gender. He talked about moving from the idea of needing to convert to the majority, to passing, to covering, which was a new idea for me.

He discussed the importance of auth
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Chia-Yi
Mar 03, 2012 Chia-Yi rated it really liked it
I’ve done it. I’ve downplayed something about myself to give off a different or specific image of myself to others. I just never knew there was a word for it. It’s called “covering,” and it has deeper implications than we may think.

My book club read a few months ago a book by that name, Covering by Kenji Yoshino (more info at his website). He talks about the history of the gay rights movements, but also makes it clear that the covering phenomenon is universal and does not only occur in members o
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Parallax
Yoshino argues that current anti-discrimination law is based on protecting minorities from discrimination that targets essential characteristics they can't change, but does nothing to protect them from discrimination based on behaviors and choices they make based on their minority status. "Covering" is the societal pressure to downplay any difference you have (sexual orientation, race, gender, able-bodiedness, etc). Yoshino bases his civil rights on gay activism, and the demands to first convert ...more
Michael
Feb 11, 2016 Michael rated it liked it
This book has a great message and is overall a very interesting read. Kenji's story and life experiences are some that I could only dream of. The concept of covering is one that I identify with on many levels.

I only gave this book 3 stars because, while it is a recollection of Kenji's life experiences and his explanation of the concept of covering, he wrote the book in an aggressively intellectual manner. That may sound ridiculous to some but I feel that this concept is something that affects us
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Cynthia
Jul 08, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Love love love. Lucid, lyrical, and very compelling -- a wonderful blend of memoir and legal analysis. This is what legal writing should be.

I was surprised that Yoshino quoted a great deal from Eric Liu's The Accidental Asian (though I understand why he uses the excerpts he does). I found Liu's book annoyingly uncritical. In contrast, Yoshino is often painfully honest in a way that demonstrates just how far he has come in allowing his true, authentic self to come forward.

The only gap in his an
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Catherine
Describes and analyzes the reasons behind “covering,” which loosely translates to adjusting behavior to minimize traits that might be considered undesirable. The author is gay and Asian American. Most of the book focuses on his own experience coming out as gay and his growing awareness of how his comfort level impacted his conduct in different situations. The book goes on to discuss covering in areas such as race (again, mostly Yoshino’s experiences), gender (e.g., women who must act “masculine” ...more
Jon
Jul 27, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it
It all comes down to this: My real commitment is to autonomy – giving individuals the freedom to elaborate their authentic selves [page 93].

Yoshino identifies and discusses some behaviors slowing the path to autonomy: conversion to fit the dominant stereotype, passing for what one is not, and covering or downplaying one’s true self to get ahead, or just to get along. He sets his discussion in the context of gay autonomy with many references to his own story, but these concepts apply equally well
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Julie Ekkers
Feb 16, 2013 Julie Ekkers rated it it was amazing
I read this book a long time ago, but was recently put in mind of it and so read parts of it again. I was struck all over again by its power and loveliness. The book is a lucid and engaging history of civil rights jurisprudence to date that is accessible to both those who have received formal legal training, as well as those who have not. This history serves as the foundation for the call for a new conception of civil rights, a conception that is grounded in a recognition of the multitudes of se ...more
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Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law. He was educated at Harvard (B.A. 1991), Oxford (M.Sc. 1993 as a Rhodes Scholar), and Yale Law School (J.D. 1996). He taught at Yale Law School from 1998 to 2008, where he served as Deputy Dean (2005-6) and became the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor in 2006. His fields are constitutional law, an ...more
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