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6 Works 648 Members 35 Reviews

About the Author

Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law and the author of covering. The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. He lives in New York with his husband and two children.
Image credit: New York University

Works by Kenji Yoshino


Common Knowledge



I had read another book by the author and was intrigued by this one. I am old enough to have watched the vote for Proposition 8 in California (which would rescind the right for same-sex couples to marry) and comprehend the consequences for its passage, politically, socially, etc. This follows the legal battle to overturn this law and the journey for both the author and the ultimate fate of the law (which was eventually overturned with the final appeal being denied).

Weaving both his personal story and the lawsuit, Yoshino also interviewed witnesses and lawyers on both sides of the case, bringing together a story that probably could not be covered any other way, as a longread in a magazine/newspaper, etc. would not do this justice. Yoshino himself felt ambiguous about the challenge, but obviously the impact of Proposition 8 had significant repercussions not only for Californians but potentially for the nation as well.

I have to admit, this was extremely dull. As mentioned, I read another book by the author and was not all that into that one either but read this for both the subject matter and that this is a little different (a breakdown of a case vs. a more of a "how to" book). The negative reviews nail it: this is an extremely important book and does cover something that needed a book like this vs reporting or a documentary, etc. But the writing is extremely hard and as someone who is a layperson who is not familiar with this challenge, the legal terms, etc. I found it rather tough to read.

Of course, this is definitely a book of interest to LGBTQ+ issues, the law, etc. I would not be surprised to see this on law school syllabi, civil rights syllabi, etc. but as mentioned, for a regular Joe or Jane who is not an expert this might not be for you unless you have a particular tie or interest for this case.

Borrowed from the library and that was best for me.
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HoldMyBook | 19 other reviews | Aug 29, 2023 |
Very readable book, part memoir, but mostly discussion of what "covering" is and how the more subtle aspects of discrimination can be dealt with by legal and other action. I like his very underplayed sense of humor.
steve02476 | 9 other reviews | Jan 3, 2023 |
In Covering, Yale law professor Kenji Yoshino has three themes. First, he tells his personal story of "covering" his gay and Asian identities to fit in in America, distinguishing covering (making it easy for others to ignore the identity) from the related demands of conversion and passing. Second, he explains that current American law protects only "essential" aspects of identity, which in practice makes covering required. Third, he argues for shifting the burden of establishing "essentialism" to the institution rather than the individual ("it is an essential aspect of the job to do X; employees can behave how they like as long as they can do X" vs. "it is an unchangeable aspect of my class to be Y; because I can't change it, it's inappropriate for you to harm me because of it").

I wanted to love this book, in part because it was so explicit about parallels for religious identities with racial, queer, gender, and disabled identities. Overall, however, I found myself uninspired by the primer to queer studies (it's fine; I've just had it many times before) and underconvinced by the legal argument. I absolutely believe that everyone has some aspects of their identity that they cover for general palatibility, and that it would be better to live in a society where that doesn't need to happen. But I laugh at the idea that court decisions supporting "everyone has a right to behave in any way that isn't essential to the job" would do anything favorable for civil rights. I can well imagine organizations choosing between competing narratives of a role depending on the situation, and I suspect that old court cases might impose a regressive effect on entire industries (e.g., the service/safety role of a flight attendant). Generally I suspect Yoshino's desired shift would devolve to our current definitions and/or reinforce problematic cultural narratives, and it could even reduce rights by putting the power to write the narrative first in the hands of organizations rather than individuals. But I'm not a Yale law professor, so who knows.

This book is absolutely worth a gander if you're not very familiar with the literature on assimilation, especially if you haven't really noticed or considered the politics of your own assimilationist tendencies yet.
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pammab | 9 other reviews | Mar 20, 2021 |
Each chapter of the book is about a play and a lesson about justice to be drawn. Typically, the chapter will apply the lesson to a modern day example. Personally I found the chapters about plays I've already read the most enjoyable, though I did read the others as well. I feel like each lesson is generally easy to grasp. Titus Andronicus is about how without a rule of law embodied by the state revenge cycles spiral out of control, Macbeth is about our yearning for natural justice, and the Henarid about the nature of sovereignty. I like the mix of history, literary criticism and law that Yoshino writes about. For example, he discusses the historical shift from divine to human fact finding to fuller explain the context of ocular proof in Othello. He draws on Weber's three methods of leadership (feudal, charismatic and legal) to explain the three "fathers" Hal embraces in his path to becoming Henry V. Professor Yoshino has some pretty unique interpretations of Shakespeare, at many points he offers understandings of certain themes and characters that are not mainstream. Some of that seems like a stretch to me, but it's novel and enjoyable to mull over. For example, Yoshino argues that Portia is the most dangerous one in Merchant of Venice, she is able to manipulate the law to her own ends through technicalities (she manipulates her father's will, the trial and her lover). The book is equal parts literary analysis and law, and in my opinion he makes it work. A short read as well, the text is large and double spaced. Definitely a good primer in the field of law and literature.… (more)
vhl219 | 4 other reviews | Jun 1, 2019 |



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