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Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,265 ratings  ·  157 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
Paperback, 282 pages
Published February 20th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2006)
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Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I so appreciated Kenji Yoshino’s heart in this book. Yoshino, a gay first generation Japanese American man and law professor, writes about the pressure for marginalized groups in the United States to cover – the pressure for gay people to act straight, for people of color to act white, for women to act like men, etc. He approaches this both from a legal perspective and from his own life, sharing his personal experiences with struggling to accept his sexuality and come out. There’s a level of con ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, recs
In his moving blend of memoir and political theory, Covering, Kenji Yoshino alternates between recounting his own experiences as a gay Japanese-American man and elaborating upon his thesis that American life at the start of the twenty-first century is shaped by the demand to “cover,” or downplay, stigmatized identities in public. In the book’s first half the author convincingly demonstrates that gay and lesbian postwar life has been shaped in turn by the demands to convert, pass, and, finally, c ...more
Emma Sea
gorgeous. is there such a thing as a non-fiction prose poem? because that's what this is.

Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Yoshino is a Yale Law professor, first generation Japanese American and a gay man. The majority of his book discusses his own journey as a gay man, and a first generation American. The legal arguments he builds about conversion (pressure to conform to a heterosexual sexual orientation), covering (hiding or playing down differences such as secual orientation, religion, disability and more) and reverse covering.

Law cases included in the book include cases of women who were penalized by their empl
Chance Lee
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Martin Luther King Jr. Day passed by while I was reading this book. On that day, this quote from King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" stood out to me:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than
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
Jun 03, 2007 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
Jul 19, 2015 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
Dec 08, 2012 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
Oct 29, 2014 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. ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, iconic, brain-melt
new measure of nonfiction is the extent to which I learn about others (an effort to prevent othering), yet learn about myself simultaneously ~

not minimizing the suffering experienced by those who identify in ways that I do not, I was moved when I read the example of the Episcopalian priest who "flaunts" his religious identity "for his students...being a believer means your intellectual credibility takes a savage hit,' he says 'I'm open about my faith to show my religious and intellectual identit
Larry-bob Roberts
Aug 12, 2008 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
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law
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
Dec 21, 2008 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
Bonnie Wells
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I would think, I wish I were dead. I did not think of it as a suicidal thought. My poet's parsin mind read the first 'I' and the second 'I' as different 'I's.' The first 'I' was the whole watching self, while the second 'I' - the one that I wanted to kill - was the gay 'I' nested inside it. It was less a suicidal impulse than a homicidal one - the infanticide of the gay self I had described in the poem."

This is another book I read for class, but wow did it impress me. Yoshino does such an excel
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nov 09, 2007 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
Aug 09, 2010 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
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
Sep 18, 2007 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."
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kenji makes an amazing job. He manages to appeal to our humanity and at the same time builds a strong logical/legal framework to think about the origins and consequences of the covering demands in our society. This is a must read for passionates of human rights, but most importantly, a clear need for those who prefer to stay in the margin.
Apr 15, 2007 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. ...more
A very good, thought-provoking read. Packed with useful citations leading to further thought-provoking reading. The book could have benefited from more examples outside the realms of gay and racial 'covering,' but he made his points very well nevertheless. Highly recommended. ...more
Sep 30, 2016 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.
Traci at The Stacks
Interesting topic. Well developed. Smart. Made me think a bunch. Loved the mix of memoir and law precedents. Some vocabulary felt over the top. Slowed/lost thread by the end.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, memoir, adult, law, lgbtq
This book is full of interesting anecdotes about covering – toning down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream – and civil rights cases that lead Yoshino to a conclusion about new civil rights. Because the law does not protect victims of stereotypes beyond fundamental classifications, Yoshino suggests a transition from individualized equality to universal human rights. He suggests that universal rights and freedoms are the way the Court will protect differences in the future. “One of t ...more
Lisa (Lisa Likes Books)
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Read it for school and didn’t hate it tbh. It was interesting, but not something I would read again. I loved reading Yoshino’s anecdotes about his life and experiences, though. I would definitely read more of that by him.
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Anyone interested in issues of equity, equality, and anti-bias work should read this.
Jul 03, 2012 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
Dec 12, 2016 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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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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