March 2023

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation

Cover of Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation

By Eli Clare


In the book, Exile and Pride, the writer and activist Eli Claire discusses the intersection of disability and queerness. He writes his essays from the collectiveness and combination of memoir, history and political thinking. Hence, the book offered an intersectional scope for understanding our and others’ bodies and lives, along with their positionality in the politics of oppression, power and resistance. At the heart of the book, Eli calls for a social justice movement that is truly accessible to everyone. The book opens up a reality where everyone in their messy and complex selves can realize and find the love and embracement they deserve.


The book was first published in 1999 and was and still is essential to the history and future of disability politics. Eli’s book as a genderqueer activist/writer with cerebral palsy has permanently changed the landscape of disability politics and queer liberation. The work by Eli has therefore secured its position of being an essential part of the history of queer and disability politics and the understanding of these bodies and minds in society.


Eli’s book is divided into two major parts, place and body. In the section on place, Eli talked about finding a place that feels like home, not only as a physical space but also bodily and mental home. He also discusses home in the form of having to leave a place that has been “home” or even being exiled from it. He also reflects on the notion of the environment as a place of calmness and the need for its protection. In the second section, body, Eli goes more in-depth into the identity politics of being genderqueer and disabled. He discusses terminology of bodies and minds like his own, but also gives visibility to the complexity of this intersection of identities, like considering class and race.


Eli has a thoroughly kind way of writing and sharing his lived experiences, despite the re-encounters he tells about can be triggering and horrific to read. He captures the reader already in his beautifully written chapter “the mountain”.


Eli Clare is an activist, a writer, a speaker, a poet and a teacher. He is also white, disabled and genderqueer, who has since 2008 spoken, taught, and consulted (both in-person and remotely) at well over 150 conferences, community events, and colleges across the United States and Canada. Other publications of Eli’s include the book Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, which won the 2018 Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, and a poetry collection called The Marrow’s Telling: Words in Motion. 


“How pleasurable it is to pick up a book that merely intrigues you because of its title and find that it is a gem well beyond its cover. This rare phenomenon happened when I came across Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride. Only a maestro of a writer can adroitly weave together her own story plus environmental, political, disability, and lesbian issues into a cohesive whole, coming out with such clarity that you find yourself identifying with many parts and muttering, ‘But of course.’ This thin volume is so thick with thought that you almost feel you have just devoured an oversized piece of key lime pie—indeed a rich treat to digest.”
—Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies Resources


“The books that move us most are the ones that help us make sense of our experience, that take pieces of what we already know and put it together with new insights, new analysis, enabling us to form a fresh vision of ourselves and our lives. For me, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider and Adrienne Rich’s On Lies, Secrets, and Silence were such books, and there were significant others along the way. And now there’s Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride.”
—Suzanne Pharr, author of Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism