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Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,069 ratings  ·  137 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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Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, favorites
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

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 post
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 08, 2007 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
Mar 06, 2014 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
Feb 13, 2012 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
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
Feb 11, 2016 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
Jun 11, 2011 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
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
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SQHS YLL: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights 8 14 Apr 16, 2018 02:09PM  
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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
“No one has written adequately of what happens when enough of the body's naked surface is pressed against another human being's. It is a slow dismantling of ego, a suspension of the instinct to distinguish Me from Not Me.” 7 likes
“Perhaps none of us assumes romantic love to be a birthright. Yet the confidence it will come surely admits of degrees. Growing up, I assumed I was the word that rhymed with none other-- like "silver" or "orange," glistering bright, but sonnet foiling, and always solitary traveling. Somewhere love happened, plausible as a catch of distant conversation. But not in the self's way.” 5 likes
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