Brilliant Imperfection

Grappling with Cure

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: February 2017

Author: Eli Clare

Activism, Disability Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

In Brilliant Imperfection Eli Clare uses memoir, history, and critical analysis to explore cure—the deeply held belief that body-minds considered broken need to be fixed. Cure serves many purposes. It saves lives, manipulates lives, and prioritizes some lives over others. It provides comfort, makes profits, justifies violence, and promises resolution to body-mind loss. Clare grapples with this knot of contradictions, maintaining that neither an anti-cure politics nor a pro-cure worldview can account for the messy, complex relationships we have with our body-minds. The stories he tells range widely, stretching from disability stereotypes to weight loss surgery, gender transition to skin lightening creams. At each turn, Clare weaves race, disability, sexuality, class, and gender together, insisting on the nonnegotiable value of body-mind difference. Into this mix, he adds environmental politics, thinking about ecosystem loss and restoration as a way of delving more deeply into cure. Ultimately Brilliant Imperfection reveals cure to be an ideology grounded in the twin notions of normal and natural, slippery and powerful, necessary and damaging all at the same time.


"Vermont has many national treasures living quietly among us, and one of them is Addison County resident Eli Clare. His latest book, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, is revelatory, a clarion call for changing the medicalized disability narrative of defective brokenness." — John Killacky, Vermont Public Radio

"The prose in Brilliant Imperfection is dazzling. The way Clare phrases his points is so beautiful that the book feels like a mix of nonfiction and poetry. It took me almost an entire month to read this, even though it’s not terribly long. I needed extra time to set the book aside, to sit with its points and absorb them. . . .  Brilliant Imperfection should be required reading for us all." — Lovely Bookshelf blog

"Brilliant Imperfection is a clarion call, for changing the medicalized disability narrative, that of 'defective brokenness,' that often prevails in U.S. healthcare.... [It] provides empowering answers and guidance-contributing significantly to the evolving discourse on gender, queer, and disability studies." — John R. Killacky, Gay & Lesbian Review

"Brilliant Imperfection is an honest, moving, and deeply thoughtful engagement with some of the most difficult and significant questions in disability, queer, and cultural studies. . . .  Brilliant Imperfection is sure to become required reading for scholars of disability and queer studies, revealing the multiple, often contradictory meanings and consequences of cure and the importance of work for social justice." — Laurel Daen, H-Disability, H-Net Reviews

"Brilliant Imperfection is powerfully intersectional in its approach to body-mind difference: disability, as an identity, process, and means of interacting with the world, cannot be disentangled from other facets of identity like race, sexuality, class, and gender." — Travis Lau, Wordgathering

"This book will quickly become a classic, cited for Clare's careful analogies that examine cure through the notion of ecosystem restoration; his harsh critique of 'case files' and the work that scholars and artists do with them; and his deeply-nuanced exploration of the shame, grief, loss, and yearning in relation to bodymind difference. Brilliant Imperfection is beautifully written, with the insight and poetic clarity that readers have come to expect from Clare." — Ryan Cartwright, Disability Studies Quarterly

"Clare’s Brilliant Imperfection provides a well-researched, thoroughly thought-out project that grapples with multiple relevant discourses surrounding disability and PwDs. In highlighting historical, personal, and anecdotal evidence, Clare’s text is an articulate, poignant narrative – a mosaic of stories, histories and experiences – that invites much debate and analysis." — Heather Lacey, Journal of Gender Studies

"Brilliant Imperfection is a provocation—one that spotlights how crucial disability studies continues to be, particularly as scholars, activists, and artists make room for more nuanced conversations about rehabilitation, cure, and diagnosis." — Julie Passanante Elman, Feminist Formations

"As lawmakers present some lives as worth less than others, we need voices like Clare’s: the voices of those who see worth in the most devalued lives but who also recognize that a simple critique of medical technology is inadequate when so many people around the world desperately need access to that technology. Brilliant Imperfection is therefore timely and necessary for our current political moment—and it will prove a critical resource as we seek to create a better world." — Julie Avril Minich, QED

“Accessible and poetic. Brilliant Imperfection will be valuable to students in introductory medical anthropology courses as well as anthropology courses on the body and human–nature interactions.” — Michele Friedner, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"Brilliant in its analysis, rich in its provocations, and refreshing in its honesty, the book exposes how cure as an ideology serves to judge some body-minds as normal and others as abnormal; some as valuable and others as disposable; some as healthy and others as unhealthy." — Roberto Sirvent, Syndicate

"Storytelling as resistance and a creative force is power. We all have stories to tell and share. Our disability and illness narratives can challenge narratives about cure in a collective effort to reframe and appreciate body-mind differences. From one crip to another, thank you Eli Clare for Brilliant Imperfection." — Alice Wong, Syndicate

"Compelling. . . . Through streams of consciousness, Clare displays a range of emotions, including shame, anger, hope, grief, mourning, joy, fear, and longing, paradoxically representing the messiness of disability with clarity." — Karen Buenavista Hanna, Syndicate

"Surely 'classic' will become one of Brilliant Imperfection's marks. And maybe 'mosaic' should be one of the categories. How do you write a mosaic? I don’t know—Ask Eli Clare. Whatever you do, read this book." — Leonard Curry, Syndicate

"I am grateful that Eli Clare and others have grappled with cure and that they have shared their language and sets of categories to help others as we navigate our own encounters with the medical-industrial complex." — Meredith Minister, Syndicate

"Eli Clare's gift is to bind experiences, longings, and desire to a deeply felt sense of the injustices, exclusions, and unmarked sites of violences that surround us. . . . Eli writes a mosaic, and we feel it in our bones, longing and pain in dialogue." — Petra Kuppers, Syndicate

"This book may make our hearts ache, but it also provides evidence of resilience and reasons to hope for a better future." — Christine Wieseler, Hypatia Reviews Online

"[Brilliant Imperfection] wasn’t a how-to on overcoming grief and injury. It was permission to be who the accident made me: a disabled dyke. It was a permission to rage against the abelist and lesbiphobic shame I’d internalized. Clare was the only person who told me my worth was not dependent on my ability to get better or to disappear my pain. I cried as I read and re-read."
  — Sara Youngblood Gregory, Vice

"Eli Clare's Brilliant Imperfection effortlessly twines history and memory, embodiment and document to bring the reader into a complex and deeply rooted dance with and among bodies, dis/ability, environment, power, medicine, love, and fear. This is theory and politics carefully contextualized, intimately experienced, brought forth with great heart, thoughtful scholarship, and fierce intellect." — Hanne Blank, author of Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

"Brilliant Imperfection is a dazzling work of intellectually rigorous and wildly original thinking that challenges our most deeply held beliefs about the nature of cure, exposing its place in the ideologies of domination. Exquisitely poetic, intensely personal, and highly provocative, the 'messy story' Eli Clare draws us into ranges across a broad and contradictory terrain, revealing all the ways in which how we value mind-body difference is at the very heart of justice." — Aurora Levins Morales, author of Kindling: Writings on the Body


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Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eli Clare is a poet, essayist, activist, and the author of Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation, also published by Duke University Press, and The Marrow's Telling: Words in Motion. He speaks regularly at conferences, community events, and colleges across the United States and Canada about disability, queer and trans identities, and social justice, and his writing has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction: Writing a Mosaic  xv
A Note on Reading This Book: Thinking about Trigger Warnings  xix
Brilliant Imperfection: White Pines  1
1. Ideology of Cure  7
Brilliant Imperfection: Twitches and Tremors  19
2. Violence of Cure  21
Brilliant Imperfection: Maples  33
3. In Tandem with Cure  37
Brlliant Imperfection: Stone  49
4. Nuances of Cure  51
Brilliant Imperfection: Shells  65
5. Structure of Cure  67
Brilliant Imperfection: Hermit Crabs  81
6. How Cure Works  83
Brilliant Imperfection: Rolling  99
7. At the Center of Cure  101
Brilliant Imperfection: Myrtle  125
8. Moving Through Cure  127
Brilliant Imperfection: Drag Queen  147
9. Impacts fo Cure  149
Brilliant Imperfection: Survival Notes  169
10. Promise of Cure  171
Brilliant Imperfection: Cycling  189
Notes  191
Bibliography  201
Index  209
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, presented by The Publishing Triangle

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