Covering (Paperback)

The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

By Kenji Yoshino

Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780375760211, 304pp.

Publication Date: February 20, 2007

List Price: 18.00*
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Description

A lyrical memoir that identifies the pressure to conform as a hidden threat to our civil rights, drawing on the author’s life as a gay Asian American man and his career as an acclaimed legal scholar.

“[Kenji] Yoshino offers his personal search for authenticity as an encouragement for everyone to think deeply about the ways in which all of us have covered our true selves. . . . We really do feel newly inspired.”—The New York Times Book Review

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 in our daily lives. Racial minorities are pressed to “act white” by changing their names, languages, or cultural practices. Women are told to “play like men” at work. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. The devout are instructed to minimize expressions of faith, and individuals with disabilities are urged to conceal the paraphernalia that permit them to function. Given its pervasiveness, we may experience this pressure to be a simple fact of social life.

Against conventional understanding, Kenji Yoshino argues that the work of American civil rights law will not be complete until it attends to the harms of coerced conformity. Though we have come to some consensus against penalizing people for differences based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines. 

At the same time, Yoshino is responsive to the American exasperation with identity politics, which often seems like an endless parade of groups asking for state and social solicitude. He observes that the ubiquity of covering provides an opportunity to lift civil rights into a higher, more universal register. Since we all experience the covering demand, we can all make common cause around a new civil rights paradigm based on our desire for authenticity—a desire that brings us together rather than driving us apart.

Praise for Covering

“Yoshino argues convincingly in this book, part luminous, moving memoir, part cogent, level-headed treatise, that covering is going to become more and more a civil rights issue as the nation (and the nation’s courts) struggle with an increasingly multiethnic America.”San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] remarkable debut . . . [Yoshino’s] sense of justice is pragmatic and infectious.”Time Out New York


About the Author

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law. A graduate of Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008, he is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights; A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare’s Plays Teach Us About Justice; and Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial. Yoshino’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York with his husband and two children.


Praise For Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

“[Kenji] Yoshino offers his personal search for authenticity as an encouragement for everyone to think deeply about the ways in which all of us have covered our true selves. . . . We really do feel newly inspired.”The New York Times Book Review

“Yoshino argues convincingly in this book, part luminous, moving memoir, part cogent, level-headed treatise, that covering is going to become more and more a civil rights issue as the nation (and the nation’s courts) struggle with an increasingly multiethnic America.”San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] remarkable debut . . . [Yoshino’s] sense of justice is pragmatic and infectious.”Time Out New York

“[Covering] is, at heart, a memoir written by a legal scholar who might have missed his calling as a poet. . . . Powerful.”The Village Voice

“Who’d expect a book on civil rights and the law to be warmly personal, elegantly written, and threaded with memorable images? . . . The beauty of Yoshino’s book lies in the poetry he brings to telling his own story.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“A lush, frequently elegant account . . . Yoshino is a skillful narrative guide with a gift for describing the small dramas of still situations.”Legal Affairs

“Yoshino introduces a new term into the American social lexicon: ‘covering’ is the new ‘passing,’ the new ‘closet.’ . . . Provocative and affecting, Covering challenges us to be as open with one another as Yoshino is willing to be with us.”The Boston Globe

“The poignancy of [Yoshino’s] personal victory is as compelling as any other piece of his treatise.”Los Angeles Times

“[A] sober, rigorous and touching treatise on behalf of the disenfranchised that comes not a moment too soon . . . In times to come, this book could be viewed as a seminal work.”Chicago Sun-Times

“[Yoshino] eloquently weaves memoir and legal text in this lovely, moving, and persuasive book. . . . Real, raw, and beautiful.”Edge Providence

“[A] brilliantly argued and engaging book . . . a finely grained memoir of young man’s struggles to come to terms with his sexuality . . . a powerful argument for a whole new way of thinking about civil rights and how our society deals with difference. Kenji Yoshino is the face and voice of the new civil rights.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

“Magnificent . . . so eloquently and powerfully written I literally could not put it down. Sweeping in breadth, brilliantly argued, and filled with insight, humor, and erudition . . . This extraordinary book is many things at once: an intensely moving personal memoir; a breathtaking historical and cultural synthesis of assimilation and American equality law; an explosive new paradigm for transcending the morass of identity politics; and in parts, pure poetry. No one interested in civil rights, sexuality, discrimination—or simply human flourishing—can afford to miss it.”—Amy Chua, author of World on Fire