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Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure

4.56  ·  Rating details ·  302 ratings  ·  39 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 3rd 2017 by Duke University Press Books
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Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review and others can also be found on my blog!!

CW: ableism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and sexual assault (I likely missed some and, for that, I apologize)

First, this was a gift from my friend. She was writing her senior thesis and loved this book. Although she changed the topic of her thesis, she still gave everyone this book for Christmas. Since I’m heading back to school in a helping profession, I thought that while this doesn’t exactly cover my expected audience for my practicum
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Able-bodied people, forget everything you think you believe about health and cure and disability politics, and listen to Eli Clare. He covers politics, history, ethics, ableism, gender identity, and more; with all the messy, contradictory intersections that cannot be ignored. His prose is dazzling, the way he states his points so beautiful, that this feels like a mix of nonfiction and poetry. Cannot recommend highly enough!
I rarely buy books brand new and this was one of them. I loved Exile and Pride so I couldn't wait to read this. It definitely did not disappoint. It is filled with many insights and poses even more questions- something I wish more folks would do. This book is empowering and unapologetic about disability in all of its forms. It includes many narratives from specific analyses of famous disability stories to personal stories of oppression and love to general statements on intersections of race, ...more
Eli Clare is so brilliant. It would be great if everyone read this book to help deepen and challenge our beliefs about health, medicine, and cure. I really value Eli Clare’s shared wisdom and also am so in love with this writing. I felt transformed after reading Exile and Pride and now have a special place in my heart for this book.

(SPL 2018 book bingo: author or character has a disability)
Ai Miller
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was so, so, so fucking good. Clare does so much in such little space, drawing all these narratives and ways of thinking together, and it's so challenging to think about cure alongside all the tensions he highlights. He also delves into so many areas of thought to pull it all together--obviously disability studies and crip theory, but also environmental studies and history and all of it is so thoughtful and written with so much obvious care. I'm going to be chewing on this book for a long ...more
Hal Schrieve
Clare is a genderqueer living-as-a-man person with cerebral palsy and schizophrenia who has been a disability activist and theorist and speaker for i think a long time. Clare was born in what i think is 1964, based on anecdotes about his childhood, which makes him a little older than my parents and part of the same generation as a few other older queer writers and thinkers and survivors I admire. Brilliant Imperfection is a work that-- like many other works --bends genre in some ways. It is ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Strangers offer me Christian prayers, orcrystals and vitamins, always with the same intent - to touch me, to fix me, to mend my Cerebral Palsy, if only I would comply. They cry over me, wrap their arms around my shoulders, kiss my cheeks, . After five decades of these kinds of interactions, I still don’t know how to rebuff their pity, tell them the simple truth that I am not broken.”

As a disabled person, I appreciate the way Eli Claire gave voice to the frustrations I face when people look at
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*ARC provided by Netgalley and the Publisher for an honest review*

This books is not a book that you read for to pass he time but neither is it an academic text steeped in technical jargon that leaves you feeling exhausted after the first few pages.
The subject matter dealt with is so important and yet it is something that most people don't contemplate, cure. This is a word that, to most, is only given a positive connotation but in thisthe book Eli Clare gives us a different perspective from which
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous book length essay on the notion of "cure" and how difficult the concept is. Basically I took away from the book that charities often raise money based on looking for a "cure" for certain diseases and conditions. The author argues that usually cures are far in the distance and what might be more needed is things like access to affordable health insurance, to educated professionals, access to being included in the world - in education, in social settings, in the job market. Ability to ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
very beautiful, sometimes too academic for my liking, but mostly it comes from the gut and has challenging, perplexing things to say. cn: all kinds of violence and abuse of power, including child sexual abuse. but there's a detailed, nuanced trigger warning at the beginning of the book.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disability
One of my all time favorite books and authors. Love his lyrical writing about the complexity of disability.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, favorites
One of the best books I have ever read.
Rebecca Saxon
This is an extremely well written and well thought out book. I had the pleasure of meeting Eli Clare (as part of a reading group), and learned that this book took him 14 years to write. It shows that it took that long - and I mean that in the best possible way, as Clare really took his time to explore the complexities of disability and how it intersects with race, gender (including trans identity), class, sexuality, and the environment. This is a meditation on, dialogue with, and discussion ...more
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed and admired this book although not quite as much as Exile & Pride. I love Clare’s beautiful accessible writing, and the way he elegantly captures the complexity and contradictions of cure and our desire for it. On one hand he considers the way cure devalues and/or seeks to eliminate disability, difference and diversity; on the other, cure can represent the prevention of death or reaching towards less suffering (eg. treating cancer or chronic pain) or an aligning of our ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I really liked the idea of this book, but felt there wasn't as much content to the book as I expected. The book is generally about what society deems disordered and tries to cure, what is seen as unnatural v natural. I liked that he presents this as a complicated issue, noting that he does not feel his own cerebral palsy needs to be cured or that all wheelchair users need to be made able to walk, but also that many so-called disorders are accompanied by pain which people would love to be cured ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Im a transgender disabled man. And im disgusted by this book. I had to read this for my college politics class, which I am now dropping due to this book. His thoughts on both gender and disability baffle and anger me. Disability isnt good. Its not fun, its not better. You shouldnt glorify disability. The fact hes upset that abled people want to prevent disabilty makes no sense to me. No one wants to be disabled. Even he says there are times he doesnt like it. So why does he keep implying that ...more
Clare McCarthy
What do we mean when we say "cure"? To alleviate pain, certainly. To improve quality of life, yes. But we mean so much more as well, as Eli Clare here explores. " Diagnosis" and "Cure" can also be used to define the lesser, the defective, the undesirable, the imperfect. And in this, the striving for cure has gone horribly awry. We see the mass incarceration of young black men. We see the institutionalization and sterilization of those with mental and physical disabilities. We see pharmaceutical ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, as you might expect, but I'm disappointed with the lack of deep engagement of race and Indigeneity. Both are present but are never satisfactorily unpacked in the examples he gives. His treatment of case studies is certainly intimate and intense and done with a measure of care, though. Also, I don't want "rebellion" around trans communities' failures to dismantle the DSM, I want trans communities to center the Mad voices already present within them, to take us seriously, to ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
i really liked this book for several reasons: first of all, it was very accessible and relevant for a theory-driven text, and the arguments remained grounded in personal experience of disability. unlike a lot of academic press books, i never felt like the author was name-dropping or referencing critical theorists just for academic street cred. i loved how emotionally searing and deep it felt, instead of getting lost in critique for its own sake. eli clare welcomes uncertainty, messiness, and ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was mandatory reading for coursework and wow, I am so glad this was assigned. Brilliant Imperfection is possibly one of the best books I have ever read, painfully and brutally self-aware and unrelentingly honest. This was the first time I had ever really thought about cure & anti-cure politics, but now it’s all I can think about! It tied in so many aspects of discrimination that we have been talking about in class and I think it should be required reading for the medical profession ...more
Tallon Kennedy
This book really challenged my preconceived notions and assumptions about disability, and Clare really lays out how ableism is deeply ingrained into our society and our medical institutions. There are also some great moments looking at the issue of "curing" from an intersectional standpoint. Highly recommend this. 8.5/10
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Had the pleasure of meeting Clare at Western University in Bellingham this past May. Truly a brilliant mind that is leading the way to inclusive pedagogy! This book is at the intersection of many oppression's that Clare fatefully links together, leaving the reader with a new understanding of intersectionality!
Must read!!
Autumn Elizabeth
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is intersectionality done well. It is an example of brilliance and does not shy away from the complexities of our lived experiences and our societies. It is affirming, arresting, and awakening. Read it.
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Part personal narrative and part disability history in the United States, Eli Clare’s book is both informative and emotionally driven.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am endlessly falling in love with every sentence in this book, a blessing to read.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, school-uni
WGS 365: Queer Theory

This book . Thank you, Eli Clare.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Must read!!
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. Brought me to tears on multiple occasions. Strong ability to hold multiple truths in a artistic, visceral way.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Love this book! Though largely this was a case of Eli Clare preaching to the choir, it still made me pause and think about the assumptions I make on a daily basis.
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White, disabled, and genderqueer, Eli Clare lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont where he writes and claims a penchant for rabble-rousing. He has written a book of essays Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation and a collection of poetry The Marrow's Telling: Words in Motion and has been published in many periodicals and anthologies. His newest work, Brilliant Imperfection: ...more
“Let me remind all of us--disabled and nondisabled--that every time we defend our intelligence, we come close to disowning intellectually disabled people. We imply that it might be okay to exclude, devalue, and institutionalize people who actually live with body-mind conditions that impact the ways they think, understand, and process information.

The only way out of this trap is to move toward, not away from, intellectually disabled people, to practice active solidarity.”
“Sometimes disabled people overcome specific moments of ableism—
we exceed low expectations, problem-solve lack of access, avoid nursing
homes or long-term psych facilities, narrowly escape police brutality
and prison. However, I’m not sure that overcoming disability itself is an
actual possibility for most of us. Yet in a world that places extraordinary
value in cure, the belief that we can defeat or transcend body-mind
conditions through individual hard work is convenient. Overcoming is
cure’s backup plan.”
More quotes…