December Book of the Month | Covering by Kenji Yoshino

Our December Book of the Month is Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Human Rights by Kenji Yoshino. In Covering, the author draws on both his personal experiences as a gay Asian American and expands upon these experiences to examine common ways many individuals downplay aspects of their identities that are based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability to become mainstream. Yoshino states that “covering” is a strategy by which an individual downplays a known stigmatized identity to “fit in” and minimize their differences and “cover” along four dimensions:

  • The appearance-based covering concerns how individuals change/alter self-presentation such as grooming, mannerisms, or attire that could be identified with their group.  For example, an African American woman might straighten her hair or avoid natural hairstyles to downplay her race.
  • Affiliation-based covering concerns how individuals avoid behaviors widely associated with their identity to negate stereotypes about one’s identity.  For example, a woman with small children may downplay that she is a mother and take on nightwork to show commitment to her career.
  • Advocacy-based covering is about how individuals avoid demonstrating or speaking out in ways that could be viewed as advocating for their group.  For example, a veteran might refrain from challenging a joke about the military to avoid being labeled as overly strident.
  • Association-based covering concerns how individuals avoid spending too much time with others who are also members of their group.  A gay person might choose not to bring his same-sex partner to a work function to avoid appearing “too gay.”

Yoshino masterfully knits autobiography and legal scholarship which presents a powerful argument for developing new ways of thinking about civil rights and differences. In this book, he also illuminates the fact that gay rights are not only a struggle to liberate gays — it is a fight to free all of us from the pressures and temptations to cover salient aspects of our identity that denies us and others our full humanity.

Book club selection and description written by Aquilla Frederick, LCSW, MBA
Featured image by Erik Zajac

About Ackerman’s Community Book Club:

Ackerman’s Community Book Club is a monthly series of reading recommendations curated by our family therapy instructors. We invite you to read one book each month that explores diversity, equity, and inclusion and join us on a pathway to curiosity. The books on our list have been selected with the aim of increasing knowledge, empathy, willingness, and skill to confront xenophobia as therapists, educators, and lifelong learners, in the personal and professional spaces we occupy.

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