part of portrait of Eli by Riva Lehrer

Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure

Winner of the 2018 Publishing Triangle's Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction.

Brilliant Imperfection Cover 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 non-negotiable 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.

Purchase the book:
Duke University Press. Use the following code at checkout to get 30% off: E17CLARE.

Read excerpts:
Introduction: Writing a Mosaic
Overcoming Disability
Personhood Is a Weapon

Read reviews:
a review in the "Lovely Bookshelf" blog
John Killacky's review in Vermont Digger
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's review in bitch media
Scott Neigh's review in the blog "A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land"
Heather Love's 2017 "Public Picks," which include Brilliant Imperfection
Alexis Shotwell's thoughts about Brilliant Imperfection on her blog
Z Nicolazzo's review in "Trans* Resilience Blog"
Laura Daen's review in "H-Disability"
Travis Lau's review in Wordgathering
Ryan Lee Cartwright's review in the Disability Studies Quarterly
Sue Smith's review in the "Medical Humanities" blog
Sue Mann Dolce's review and book group questions on the AHEAD website
Gillian Loomes's review in the journal Disability and Society
Alexandre Baril's review in IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (in French)
Kay Ulanday Barrett's review and interview in Lambda Literary
Julie Passanante Elman's review in Feminist Formations
Julie Avril Minich's review in QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking
Alison Kafer's review in Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience

Read & listen to interviews:
Jenny Davis's interview with Eli in The Wesleyan Argus
KPFA's interview with Eli on the radio show "Pushing Limits"
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's interview with Eli in bitch media
Carolyn Ogburn's interview with Eli in Ploughshares at Emerson College
Travis Lau's interview with Eli in The Deaf Poets Society
The Catalyst's article about and interview with Eli
Sandra Alland's review and interview with Eli in Disability Arts Online
Christa Couture's interview with Eli on CBC Radio show "Tapestry"


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

How do you write a review of a book you've been waiting for for 17 years? I savored each page of Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling With Cure.... [It] is an essential text for anyone grappling with ableism and concepts of perfection's impacts on their bodymind, communities, and organizing.
—Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in bitchmedia, author of Dirty River

Clare’s writing is radical in its refusal to condense to a prescriptive right or wrong without ever sliding into passivity.
—Carolyn Ogburn in Ploughshares at Emerson College

Written over a ten-year period, Brilliant Imperfection was published just as the struggle for health care access in the United States achieved new political urgency. 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's review in QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking