“Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure” by Eli Clare— Memoir, History and Critical Analysis

Clare, Eli. “Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure”, Duke University Press, 2017.

Memoir, History and Critical Analysis

 Amos Lassen

Writer Eli Clare uses memoir, history, and critical analysis to explore cure—the deeply held belief that body-minds considered broken need to be fixed in “Brilliant Imperfection”. The word “cure” has many meanings and purposes. Cures save and manipulate lives and prioritizes some lives over others. “It provides comfort, makes profits, justifies violence, and promises resolution to body-mind loss”. Clare wrestles with some of the contradictions listed above and he feels that neither an anti-cure politics nor a pro-cure worldview can “account for the messy, complex relationships we have with our body-minds”. Clare shares stories that run the gamut from disability stereotypes to weight loss surgery, gender transition to skin lightening creams. In each case he looks at race, disability, sexuality, class, and gender together and he insists on “the nonnegotiable value of body-mind difference”. He also adds environmental politics, thinking about ecosystem loss and restoration as a way to go more deeply into cure. We come to see as “an ideology that is grounded in the twin notions of normal and natural, slippery and powerful, necessary and damaging all at the same time”.

What we have here challenges our beliefs about the nature of cure and we see that it sits in the ideologies of domination. We are also challenged by the question of cure and it’s ambiguities and to the broader questions of civic and environmental justice. He shocks us with what he has to say and shies away from nothing. He tells us that we must take on what we have in order to gain power for all.

he says that will shock you and are against everything society teaches us. Clare covers politics, history, ethics, ableism, gender identity, and more. He doesn’t shy away from criticizing systems that manipulate the disabled, and he doesn’t shy away from messy, contradictory intersections that cannot be ignored. He teaches us that, somehow, we have to embrace that mess before we can truly respect and empower individuals.

Clare, himself, is white, disabled, and “genderqueer” and is therefore in a position to say what he feels and he does so brilliantly.


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