Covering by Kenji Yoshino
The Hidden assault on American Civil Rights

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Synopsis

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 in our daily lives. Given its pervasiveness, we may experience this pressure to be a simple fact of social life.
Against conventional understanding, Kenji Yoshino argues that the demand to cover can pose a hidden threat to our civil rights. 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. 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. In a wide-ranging analysis, Yoshino demonstrates that American civil rights law has generally ignored the threat posed by these covering demands. With passion and rigor, he shows that the work of civil rights will not be complete until it attends to the harms of coerced conformity.
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 the covering demand 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.
Yoshino’s argument draws deeply on his personal experiences as a gay Asian American. He follows the Romantics in his belief that if a human life is described with enough particularity, the universal will speak through it. The result is a work that combines one of the most moving memoirs written in years with a landmark manifesto on the civil rights of the future.

 

About Kenji Yoshino

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Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law. Prior to that appointment, he was the Deputy Dean of Intellectual Life at Yale Law School. He has written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and he is the author of the award-winning memoir Covering. He lives in New York City.
 
Published November 2, 2011 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Self Help, Gay & Lesbian, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Covering

The New York Times

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A law professor draws on his life to challenge society's invidious peer pressure.

Jan 22 2006 | Read Full Review of Covering: The Hidden assault ...

Publishers Weekly

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Seldom has a work of such careful intellectual rigor and fairness been so deeply touching. Yoshino, a law professor at Yale and a gay, Asian-American man, masterfully melds autobiography and legal

Nov 28 2005 | Read Full Review of Covering: The Hidden assault ...

Bookmarks Magazine

and Malcolm X, who called for a transition from a civil rights paradigm, which polarizes in its inherent focus on specific groups, to a human rights model that champions common humanity."

Aug 28 2007 | Read Full Review of Covering: The Hidden assault ...

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