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The Hidden Assault On Our Civil Rights
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The Hidden Assault On Our Civil Rights

By Kenji Yoshino
2006, 282 pages, Hardback.

Book Description from the Cover Flaps
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About the Author

Feb. 2, 2006 Cambridge Forum Presentation by the Author

ORDER -- Item #3628, Price $24.95

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Book Description from the Cover Flaps

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 that 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 demand to cover, 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.

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Comments from Back Cover

"An important, compelling new way to understand civil rights law. In clear, lyrical prose, Covering quite literally brings the law to life. The result is a book about our public and private selves as convincing to the spirit as it is to the mind.”
- Adam Haslett, author of You Are Not A Stranger Here

“Kenji Yoshino’s work is often moving and always clarifying. Covering elaborates an original, arresting account of identity and authenticity in American culture.”
- Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Ethics of Identity and Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor Of Philosophy at Princeton University

"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. No one interested in civil rights, sexuality, discrimination - or simply human flourishing - can afford to miss it.”
- Amy Chua, author of World on Fire

Covering is a startling original book, essential reading for everyone invested in human rights. Kenji Yoshino joins an exquisitely observed personal memoir with a persuasive argument as to why covering is the civil rights issue of our time. This brilliant, hopeful book offers a new understanding of what is at stake in our fight for civil rights.”
- Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice and The Birth of Pleasure

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Background on Kenji Yoshino

KENII YOSHINO is the deputy dean for intellectual life and professor of law at Yale Law School. For more information about Yoshino's work, visit

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