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“This stunning book introduces three faces of the remarkable Kenji Yoshino: a writer of poetic beauty; a soul of rare reflectivity and decency; and a brilliant lawyer and scholar, passionately committed to uncovering human rights. Like W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, this book fearlessly blends gripping narrative with insightful analysis to further the cause of human emancipation. And like those classics, it should explode into America's consciousness.”
-Harold Hongju Koh Dean, Yale Law School and former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights
“Covering is a magnificent work - so eloquently and powerfully written I literally could not put it down. Sweeping in breadth, brilliantly argued, and filled with insight, humor, and erudition, it offers a fundamentally new perspective on civil rights and discrimination law. 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
“In this stunning, original book, Kenji Yoshino demonstrates that the struggle for gay rights is not only a struggle to liberate gays—-it is a struggle to free all of us, straight and gay, male and female, white and black, from the pressures and temptations to cover vital aspects of ourselves and deprive ourselves and others of our full humanity. Yoshino is both poet and lawyer, and by joining an exquisitely observed personal memoir with a historical analysis of civil rights, he shows why gay rights is so controversial at present,
why “covering” is the issue of contention, and why the “covering demand,” universal in application, is the civil rights issue of our time. This is a beautifully written, brilliant and hopeful book, offering a new understanding of what is at stake in our fight for human rights.”
-Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice
|An uncovered self||3|
|The end of civil rights||167|
|The new civil rights||184|
Posted October 9, 2012
My queer book club read this and had the best turnout and conversation yet! Incredible blend of logical and legal rigor with holistic storytelling that everyone can commeny and ponder on.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2008
There have been several struggles in civil rights in the USA. Women suffrage, African American civil rights, and finally the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Bisexual cause. Yoshino, a law professor at Yale and a gay, Asian-American man, masterfully melds autobiography and legal scholarship in this book, marking a move from more traditional pleas for civil equality to a case for individual autonomy in identity politics. Seldom has a work of such careful intellectual rigor and fairness been so deeply touching. In questioning the phenomenon of 'covering,' a term used for the coerced hiding of crucial aspects of one's self--in his case his homosexuality--Yoshino thrusts the reader into a battlefield of shifting gray areas. Yet, at every step, he anticipates the reader's questions and rebuttals, answering them not only with acute reasoning, but also with disarming humility. What emerges is an eloquent, poetic protest against the hidden prejudices embedded in American civil rights legislation--legislation that tacitly apologizes for 'immutable' human difference from the white, male, straight norm, rather than defending one's 'right to say what one is.' Though Yoshino recognizes the law's potential to further (and hinder) liberty's cause, he admits that his 'education in law has been an education in its limitations.' Hence, by way of his unsparing accounts of self-realization, he reveals that the struggle against oppression lies not solely in fighting an imagined, monolithic state but as much in intimate discourse with the mother, the father, and the colleague who constitute that state. It deals with the ability to 'blend' with the society who is yet to give the GLBT community the rights and respect it deserves. As healing as it is polemical, this book has tremendous potential as a touchstone in the struggle for universal human dignity.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 14, 2006
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 wWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2010
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Posted June 18, 2012
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