Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights
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Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  580 ratings  ·  93 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...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published February 20th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2006)
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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...more
Dec 24, 2008 Dusty rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Larry-bob Roberts
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
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
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
Mar 17, 2008 Lubna rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
Jan 30, 2009 Aron rated it 5 of 5 stars
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."
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.
Kenji Yoshino’s illuminating argument forgoes the self-consciousness of objectivity, instead favoring anecdotal evidence. His decisive, poetic, and thought-intensive language bears a telling and increasingly desirable need for self-expression and changing ideological structures by affording personal stakes and critical accounts of gay, women’s, race, and disability politics. I loved how easily Yoshino weaved his argument into a fascinating and relatable read for readers on numerous platforms. Hi...more
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...more
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
Yoshino makes one of the most compelling cases for society self reflection that I have ever come across. Both legal commentary, personal memoir, and social commentary Yoshino makes the case that the concepts of civil rights and how to protect them are changing.

One of the most interesting parts of his analysis is the concept of mutable characteristics, which do not gain any legal protection, and those of immutable characteristics, which do have legal protection. Yoshino's argument that they are...more
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...more
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
Julie Ekkers
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
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...more
Covering details how pressures in dominant culture (white male heterosexual, etc.) induce folks outside those groups to hide or tone down sexual or racial identities when others know of these identities. For women, Yoshino's arguments are slightly different. Women face a double-bind; they must be feminine (but not too feminine) and display some masculine traits (but not too many). These interesting points could have been illustrated in a brief article.
Instead, Yoshini provides an extensive - and...more
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
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...more
This book by a Japanese-American gay man who was an English major and a writer before he became a lawyer is beautifully written and offers insights into the ways all of us "cover"--diminish truths about ourselves and those we love. It's not about coming out or what bad people to do "minorities," it's about what we all--minority or not--do to ourselves. And why. He looks at race, class, ethnicity, and disability; he looks at our little shames, our hidden vices; and he weaves sexual orientation in...more
Jackie Brogdon
There was just something about the way that Yoshino made his argument that felt fair and just. He didn't alienate his audiences even those that would mostly like be hostile to what he was trying to say, instead he laid a base of common values and beliefs that we could all agree on. I was actually quite surprised with how much I enjoyed this since I usually don't like political books.
This book was super interesting- to see how we have moved to a place where people are more often protected in discrimination lawsuits when the case is directly about a minority status, but how the law fails in cases of covering. Don't ask don't tell is an easy example, where you cannot discriminate against gays in the military, only those who act on it- or those who do not cover. Case after case is cited on race, gender, sexuality, religion and disability where the law (and dominant culture) den...more
Very interesting book. Covering means that people act a certain way to cover their identity. For instance, black people may dress "preppy" to cover their ethnic identities, or gays may not be as "flambouyent" to cover their gay identity. The book's strength is the author's own experience and the experience of his peers and students. There are a lot of interesting examples of covering.

The drawback of the book is that Yoshino is a law professor. Yoshino cites too many cases about covering when th...more
An eye-opening, provocative and inspiring book. Brilliantly weaves incisive legal and social criticism with moving personal memoir. A theory and a message with broad appeal to minority groups and majority groups, men and women, the traditionally privileged and the historically oppressed.
Bookmarks Magazine

Kenji Yoshino, as a professor of law and deputy dean at Yale Law School, fills critics with faith in his scholarship and intellectual rigor. It is his personal story, however, that reaches out from the legal decisions to grab reviewers' attention and provides the soul of his polemic. Though some critics ponder whether a social solution to such divisive, intricate problems is truly possible, they agree that, in urging society toward the ultimate goal of "human flourishing" (Los Angeles Times), Co

A beautiful combination of memoir, historical analysis, legal analysis, social activism, and poetry. I loved the book because I felt I was witnessing the artistic product of someone who is finally granted access to their entire self. Every facet of Yoshino's life is allowed to contribute to the story he tells. It results in an amazingly rich and human call to action which asks us to recognize how we all lose when certain aspects of people's characters are indirectly asked to be hidden.

A great b...more
I love the author's interweaving of anecdotes about his coming out process with facts about civil rights cases. His analysis of the demands put on minority groups (however defined) to convert, then pass, then cover is apt. He lends the reader new terminology, informs about the current state of civil rights litigation (mostly current, this was before DADT was abolished), and writes incredibly poetically about his own life. Great book, though given the subtitle "the Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rig...more
I didn't think this was the earth shattering book it was made out to be. It did give me an updated framework for thinking about how we are all asked to conform - even white males.

The author begins with his coming out of the closet story and his experiences with assimilation or what he calls "covering." In later chapters, he takes the concept further and discusses covering for disabilities, religion, sex and race.

The author has a background in poetry and he tries very, very hard to convey his po...more
Really interesting theory book on a concept the author calls "Covering," which is the process of minimizing / accommodating one's identity to fit into society. The author, a gay man, focuses mostly on the LGBTQ community, but it's relevant to any identity that feels itself compromised by the mainstream.

What makes it so worthwhile is that the author consistently questions his assumptions and notes his inconsistencies. For example, is gay marriage an instance of covering? Or, just because you choo...more
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