Writing a Mosaic
Meandering through a working-class neighborhood in Chicago, I happen
upon a mosaic spread across the front of a community center. The colors
catch me; purple, lavender, yellow, orange dance together. Up close the tiles
are smooth, jagged, rounded, reflective, translucent, sparkling in the morn-
ing sun, no two pieces the same size and shape.
When I set out to write about cure more than a decade ago, I didn’t
intend to create a swirling, multibranched pattern of histories, ideas,
and feelings. I planned to craft a half dozen interlocking essays. I imag-
ined a simple, well- laid-out collage. But as so often happens with creative
projects, I’ve ended up somewhere I never envisioned. I wrote a mosaic.
The fragments and slivers that make up this book came to me in my
fury about eugenic practices, the words defect and monkey, the destruc-
tion of tallgrass prairie. They took shape as more than one disability
activist challenged my fierce anti- cure politics. They emerged as I sifted
through my own experiences with the diagnoses of mental retardation,
cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and gender identity disorder.
Everything in this mosaic started as a conversation. I drew on disabil-
ity politics, antiracist activism, queer and transgender movement build-
ing, fat liberation work. I pulled environmental justice and reproductive
justice into the fray. I used what I know firsthand about ableism and how
it interlocks with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism.
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