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79 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply. revolutionary
Revolutionary is not a word that I often or easily apply to the books that I read. Some books, while entertaining, do not adjust my world view or even how I view myself. Some books which set out to adjust my world view or self-preception, don't, because of a wealth of technical jargon or a "so out there" premise that I can't wrap my brain around it. However, some books...
Published on January 22, 2006 by James Hiller

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough blend of memoir and history
This book is entirely too long and could be put into fewer words. Mainly, there is delicate balance between discrimination in the form of forcing someone to downplay certain characteristics (covering) and justified assimilation for common good. Or...when do you cut someone off from expressing themselves authentically. Of course this contains broad terms and the...
Published on March 9, 2011 by T Kelley


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79 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply. revolutionary, January 22, 2006
By 
Revolutionary is not a word that I often or easily apply to the books that I read. Some books, while entertaining, do not adjust my world view or even how I view myself. Some books which set out to adjust my world view or self-preception, don't, because of a wealth of technical jargon or a "so out there" premise that I can't wrap my brain around it. However, some books are written so that they are simply stunning, beautiful, and true, revolutionary; that after you finish them, you see yourself, the world, and your thinking dramatically changed. This is one such book, written by law professor Kenji Yoshino, called "Covering".

"Covering" is essentially a book about Civil Rights, its past, present, and future, and what role the law has played in this epic American struggle. In a stroke of brilliance, Yoshino intertwines his own personal coming-out story in between the pages; in a beautiful and quite amazing blend of memoir and history and jurisprudence.

Yoshino traces the movements of the struggle of civil rights by suggesting there are three phases that groups transverse through to attain their place "at the table". The first, conversion, suggests that the member of the group needs to not be themselves but "convert" to the norm. The second phase, "passing", suggests that we accept ourselves, but do not acknowledge it to others. Finally, after becoming public, "covering" is the phase in which we purposefully steer away from things that are related to our group so as not to fall into stereotypes of our group. Yoshino not only suggests that individuals travel through these phases, which he so wonderfully illustrates with episodes from his own poignant life, but the larger groups as a whole travel through these phases as they seek for identity.

Laced through all of this is Yoshino's passion for law, in which he describes the legal systems ability and inability to grapple with such issues; in places where they have shined and in places where they have fallen down. As a complete legal novice, I found Yoshino quite accessible as he made his arguements. In fact, when I reread this book, I plan to do so with a notebook in hand, ready to take notes as I follow his line of thinking.

And as if the content of the book weren't enough, Yoshino, being a former English major and poet, writes with a painful beauty that is not often seen in the harsh literature of today. He constructs each sentence so eloquently and beautifully, you stop to slow down to inhale the crispness of his words. The moment he realizes he is in love with his friend Brian is one such part; it is complete lexigraphically pure. Of course, a legal professeur, he drops the prose and addresses us more scholarly, but I ached for more of his words, which he gave us so selflessly through the book.

Because of "Covering" I see myself, my country, and my struggle in a new, different, and exciting light. Do not pass up this opportunity. Buy this book today and get ready for your own transformation.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book, January 30, 2006
By 
Natasha "Blown away in Illinois" (Carbondale, IL United States) - See all my reviews
In this extraordinary and beautiful book, Kenji Yoshino contends that covering (the term is borrowed from Erving Goffman) is the civil rights issue of our age. Drawing on actual cases, he persuasively illustrates that the courts fail to protect men and women who refuse to "cover," mute, or conceal those aspects of their identities that are socially stigmatized (i.e. their gayness, their status as mothers, their racial identities). If this were all the book did, it would be significant enough. But Yoshino combines his legal and historical arguments with a memoir in which he "uncovers" his various selves--his lawyer self, his gay self, his Asian American self, and his poetic self. In doing so, he empowers his readers to do the same and to think about the connection between living one's own life honestly and the larger project of human emancipation.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Eloquent and Personal Plea for Upholding Individual Civil Liberties, January 31, 2006
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In lucid terms that escape the legalese that burdens related books, Yale Law School professor Kenji Yoshino discusses a topic that I never really knew had a formal definition. He describes "covering" as the purposeful act of toning down a "disfavored identity" to fit into the mainstream. Since notions of disfavored identities can get subjective, anyone can cover, whether people are members of ethnic minority groups hiding specific cultural behaviors or even white males hiding less discernible problems such as depression, alcoholism or backgrounds that embarrass them. Consequently, given the pervasiveness of such behavior, covering would seem comparatively innocuous, but Yoshino provides ample evidence that covering is a hidden assault on our civil rights. Moreover, it is becoming more of a civil rights issue as the nation's courts struggle with an increasingly multi-ethnic America.

His penetrating book is a hybrid between a revelatory memoir and a level-headed treatise on the unacceptability of the current legal doctrine around our civil rights. Toward the latter point, Yoshino discusses covering within the broader context of often egregious civil rights injustices. As he explains it, the courts are mired in group-based identity politics and driven by calls for equality. For example, to sue successfully under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment, a group claiming discrimination has one of two options. First, the group could argue that it has been denied a fundamental right, like the right to vote. Alternatively, it can contend that the law in question employs a suspect classification, i.e., that the law unjustly singles out a particular group. To argue successfully that it has been penalized by a suspect classification, a group must show that its members have historically been victimized and deserve greater protection from the courts. Given these options, Yoshino describes the increasing wariness about identity politics in a country continually spawning new identities. The current legal trend shows the courts to be veering increasingly toward protecting only the immutable aspects of identity.

The legal aspects are surprisingly fascinating in Yoshino's hands, but the more personal parts of his book are the most illuminating, in particular, Yoshino's journey out of the closet. Using his own history as a touch point, he explains the three distinct phases of gay history - conversion, passing, and covering - each defined by various pressures that enforce conformity. During the conversion phase (recreated in films like Todd Haynes's "Far From Heaven" and James Ivory's "Maurice"), gays were pressured to become heterosexual through electro-shock treatments or aversion therapy. During the passing stage, gays were relegated to the closet since mental health professionals were not providing a cure for mainstream acceptance, and having a hidden identity was the only viable way to be tolerated in society. Yoshino contends we are currently in the third phase, covering, where being gay is passively acceptable as long as people offended by it do not have to witness such an alternative lifestyle.

From one perspective, one can consider it progress that covering even occurs even though the religious right still makes an emphatic effort to convert gays or keep them out of jobs that could pass such supposedly deviant behavior to susceptible children. This is where Yoshino's personal struggles to cover inform the book. His bracing honesty is refreshing in showing how coming out is despite the dramatic convention of TV-movies, not a declaration that liberates one in a single moment, but a far more gradual process where defining what it means to be gay becomes even more nebulous within the constant ambiguity around gay legal issues. Yoshino eloquently clarifies how the pervasiveness of societal pressures can waylay a person caught in the crossfire between acceptance and personal liberation.

The best way to make progress, Yoshino concludes, is to move beyond the legal issues. According to Yoshino, civil rights lawsuits should focus on individual rights, which unify all groups around common values. Instead of focusing on marginalized groups clamoring for special status, courts would ideally say that all people have a right to be who they want to be. As a precedent, Yoshino points out the 2003 case, Lawrence vs. Texas, in which the court decriminalized same-sex sodomy not based on equality rights of gays but because it violated the fundamental rights of all people to control what they do in the bedroom. It's a powerful idea which could lead to a new jurisprudence of liberty, but there is a challenging road toward realizing such legislation. One could argue that the unequal treatment of minority groups is what makes us realize what our liberties actually are.

Though he doubts the continuing usefulness of equal protection law, Yoshino might underestimate how much his contentions based on personal freedoms will continue to depend on equality arguments. However, what's exciting about the covering paradigm of civil rights is that it's universal. Yoshino hopes that the direction that courts are moving in is happening in a world where the notion of mainstream is fracturing. In the final analysis, Yoshino dares to put the law aside. He argues that we should leave behind equality doctrine for a new, radical focus on personal liberties that the Supreme Court may be unlikely to pursue beyond Lawrence. He argues that law generally should take a backseat to cultural change. Litigation should give way to conversation to confront covering. This is superb, groundbreaking thinking eloquently presented.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Popular Book By a Law Professor Since "Democracy and Distrust", March 9, 2006
By 
David Schraub "The Crit" (Bethesda/Northfield MD/MN) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It's unfortunate that I only get to say that Professor Yoshino's book is the "best book I've read in a year." That, if anything underestimates how pathbreaking this memoir/proposal is, but unfortunately for the good professor I read Democracy and Distrust last year, and it's tough to top that.

In any event, Professor Yoshino's book is powerfully written and intellectual engaging. Perhaps its greatest contribution is its noble endeavor to show how Covering affects ALL of us, not just the marginalized or disenfranchised. Everybody covers, and everybody is harmed by it. Far from diluting his claim, this frank admission offers a way out from traditional civil rights discourse, which is increasingly viewed as provincial, dogmatic, and overly combative. Even people who are sympathetic to traditional (and more radical) civil rights efforts recognize this problem--the "race to the bottom" by which anybody who wants to comment on marginalization has to show how S/he personally has been suppressed by the system. But oppression is cross-cutting: the population of black third-world atheist lesbian disabled midgets is rather small, but the number of people who are forced in some ways to deny who they are is much larger. Yoshino, as one unsympathetic commentator pointed out, is in many ways a child of privilege--getting to attend elite private schools and teaching at a top university. But on the other hand, he clearly has faced his share of marginalization--Asian-American homosexuals are not exactly at the pinnacle of social acceptance. By offering a way to incorporate everybody into the fight for the authentic self, Yoshino can help bring back into the fold those oft-maligned "children of privilege" who are sympathetic to the goal of social equality, but have been left unsure of their status in the fight for that goal.

I salute his efforts, and admire his erudite contribution to this critical conversation.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a career!, July 14, 2006
By 
Julie Barreto (Kamuela, HI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I found the personal coming out to his parents story very moving; it brought tears to my eyes. I also loved the epilogue and the story of the blue star. But, in between, what a lot of navel-gazing and counting of angels on the head of a pin. I'm a lawyer, but I admit I got lost in all the differentiations and attempts to focus the covering/reverse-covering analysis on each type of discrimination. Then, halfway-through, I learn he was only in law school in the 1990s. I've been practicing longer than that and he's the Harvard professor! (I realize that's a comment on me.) This guy has really carved out a self-referential niche for himself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough blend of memoir and history, March 9, 2011
This review is from: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (Paperback)
This book is entirely too long and could be put into fewer words. Mainly, there is delicate balance between discrimination in the form of forcing someone to downplay certain characteristics (covering) and justified assimilation for common good. Or...when do you cut someone off from expressing themselves authentically. Of course this contains broad terms and the particulars of where to draw the line are left out for good reason. It is an interesting read and some of the sentences are complex and somewhat unintentionally confusing. But this language is somehow very representative of the actual complexities of the issues he brings up. Although at times the book seems written for personal catharsis, it never strays too far from the main issue of covering. Most of the time he could probably cut out several pages and simply put something along the lines of...everyone should be able to express themselves authentically as long as it does not impede on (insert any number of concerns). The book forces you to create an internal dialogue in which you are forced to think about where the balance lies and what the concerns are. In this way, the book is successful.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you care about the state of our culture, read this book, November 9, 2006
In Covering, Kenji Yoshino presents a new paradigm for civil rights. By weaving his own personal story of life as a gay, Japanese American man with the legal history of the civil rights struggle of gays and lesbians, Professor Yoshino creates a new, compelling genre of literature. In a bold move that bucked the traditional legal "neutral voice" treatise, Professor Yoshino makes himself and the law available to everyone, including legal scholars. Without a hint of jargon, this book shows how the status and treatment of gays and lesbians has moved from conversion to passing to now covering. His own identity development has passed through similar phases.

Covering is a mechanism through which an individual with some "disfavored" or non-dominant idenity traits downplays those traits in order to retain employment, avoid abuse, and generally navigate through the world. When we all recognize the way that covering affects us, whether it is the Black woman who is refused the right to wear cornrows (a real case involving American Airlines), or Professor Yoshino being told by colleague to be a gay professional, not a professional gay, we can move towards a new vision of civil rights. The author advocates not for the dismantling of all covering demands - some are legitimate - but that we force the discussion why a particular demand is being made.

Notably, Professor Yoshino's paradigm does not exclude anyone; in fact, its power lies in the fact that even the most privileged person (typically white heterosexual men from wealthy protestant families) can relate to the idea that they shouldn't be forced to downplay elements of his identity. We all have skin in the game when we move away from strict group-based identity politics to recognizing the inherent right we all have to express our idenity in non-conformist ways.

One criticism I have, though, is that there is no clear format for these discussions. Although Professor Yoshino states that we need to move away from legal solutions and start with the culutral context, I have a hard time imagining the format for an individual from an oppressed group "discussing" the demand to cover with their oppressor. For example, if someone with flashy rims on their car is stopped and fined under the pretext of some traffic safety regulation, if would be difficult to engage the officer in a discussion of why this law is being unfairly targeted to his attempt at expressing his cultural identity.

Perhaps the best solution is that we all need to read this book. Everyone. Spread the word. Give it as a holiday gift. Start these discussions in your homes, schools, and communities. Under this paradigm, we could all live freer, more fulfilled lives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars on what life is like for all stripes of gay people in America, October 13, 2014
By 
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This review is from: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (Paperback)
"Covering, The Assault on Our Civil Rights" is a compact and meticulously researched book by Kenji Yoshino, a gay Japanese law professor. It is both a memoir about the demons Yoshino wrestled before coming out and a report, with legal overtones, on what life is like for all stripes of gay people in America.

Yoshino introduces the term "Covering" and explains that being comfortable with who you are doesn't magically occur just because you're out. For many, the struggle continues because they feel pressured to cover.

An example of covering can be seen with newlyweds. Straight newlyweds hold hands and are often openly affectionate. Gay couples want to do the same, but often don't, because people still aren't comfortable seeing two adults of the same sex engage in public displays of affection.

There are variations on this theme, even among gays. Some feel covering and acting straight is a sellout. Others see no need to be demonstrative. Yoshino further describes this by saying, "Normals" cover and "Queers" flaunt.

Covering isn't limited to the gay community. He writes about "Bully Broads;" women who are perceived as acting too much like men on their jobs. Mommy-types don't fair well either if their boss or coworkers detect they're too wrapped up in their kids.

At times Yoshino is repetitious and his legal language can wear on lay readers. There are also passages that practically sing with his lyrical writing, including an occasional poem. This book is important and different. Additionally, it reveals how other groups such as blacks and immigrants engage in covering behavior. Sugar Hill: Where The Sun Rose Over Harlem
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dark side of assimilation.... exposed!, April 5, 2007
By 
V. Brown "llacharbach" (the hinterlands of Idaho-ho-ho) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (Paperback)
This should be required reading for all everyone in civil rights work and all lawmakers. The only place this book falls short is in the areas it doesnt discuss that all women, and straight WASP males need to understand for THEMSELVES about the covering demands made on THEM. Since these are out of Yoshino's experience one can not fault him much on that score. He points those groups in the right direction however. This is a wonderful but painful book. It is meant to provoke thought. It is not a simple tirade against conformity but something deeper. It is a starting point for thinking and discussing our civil rights.

I would also highly recommend the first half of this book to anyone who counsels people on questions of their sexual identity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars KP's Review, September 11, 2010
This review is from: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (Paperback)
This book should be an absolute must-read book for anyone in the areas of law, ethnic studies, women's studies, LGBTQ studies, sociology, and human rights. I found this book to be enlightening and among one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. As a minority myself, Yoshino's articulation of his story resonated greatly with my own life. He is so clear and concise in his description of American laws and recommendations to improve equality for all. I can honestly say, I am seriously going to contemplate pursuing a law degree because of this book's profound influence.
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Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights
Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino (Paperback - February 20, 2007)
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