Exile and Pride is part memoir, part manifesto, part delicious prose. The author, Eli Clare, writes from per experiences growing up working-class, living with disability, coming out as queer, and recovering from sexual abuse. At the same time, sie situates per experience in historical, environmental, and economic contexts. Additionally, the poetic nature of Eli's other work is frequently apparent.
"We hear from the summit that the world is grand from up there, that we live down here at the bottom because we are lazy, stupid, weak, and ugly. We decide to climb that mountain, or make a pact that our children will climb it. The climbing turns out to be unimaginably difficult. We lose the trail. Our wheelchairs get stuck. We speak the wrong languages with the wrong accets, wear the wrong clothes, carry our bodies the wrong ways, ask the wrong questions, love the wrong people. And it's goddamn lonely up there on the mountain.. Maybe we get to the summit, but probably not. And the price we pay is huge." (p1)
Clare weaves these pieces into a seamless whole that at times made me gasp with wonder. For a short piece, the writer must choose depth or breadth. Clare chooses depth, looking at per own experiences both with a microscope and a telescope. Sie goes from intimate to political in a heartbeat with grace and flair. The gorgeous prose is what really ties this wonderful piece together.
Of course, choosing depth over breadth does have a downside as well. There are things I would have liked seeing this book - an exploration of invisible illness, discussion of modern media portrayals of race and class, further ideas about alternatives to a medical model of disability. But then this book wouldn't have been the short, powerful gem that it is. Four and a half stars.