Uncovering Identity

This Review raises several questions about Yoshino’s treatment of identity, authenticity, and the “true self’ in Covering. Part I summarizes Yoshino’s book and offers some practical criticisms. Section II.A argues that Yoshino’s treatment of authenticity and identity leaves much to be desired. Section II.B argues that Yoshino’s focus on covering as an act of coerced assimilation fails to fully capture the extent to which one’s identity, and one’s uses of identity, may be fluid and deliberate. Section II.C focuses on another identity trait that runs through Yoshino’s book, always present but never remarked upon: those aspects of identity and covering that involve wealth, privilege, and social status. These traits, which are so often central to our identities and our self-presentation, are constant undercurrents in Covering, but are rarely if ever openly acknowledged and examined. Notwithstanding these concerns, this is not an attack on Yoshino’s book. Covering offers a valuable typology of the stages of civil rights, and brightly and movingly illuminates the many formal and informal claims that our society makes upon our selves. Nevertheless, Yoshino does not do full justice to the fluidity, the complexity, and the irreducibly social nature of the “self’ that lies at the heart of this literally self-centered project. Parts III and IV conclude by suggesting that this failure to fully account for the complexity of the self may have a number of important implications for the project Yoshino has undertaken.