Imperfect (Lee Kofman) – book review

Thought-provoking and confronting, Imperfect by Lee Kofman is the book I’ve been recommending to anyone who asks lately. Imperfect (clever cover design makes the title read I’m Perfect, sans apostrophe) skillfully weaves memoir with interviews in a compelling and heart-tugging way.

The blurb reads:

By the time she was eleven and living in the Soviet Union, Lee Kofman had undergone several major operations on both a defective heart and injuries sustained in a bus accident. Her body harbours a constellation of disfiguring scars that have shaped her sense of self and her view of the world. But it wasn’t until she moved to Israel and later to Australia that she came to think these markings weren’t badges of honour to flaunt but were, in fact, imperfections that needed to be hidden away.

In a captivating mix of memoir and cultural critique, Kofman casts a questioning eye on the myths surrounding our conception of physical perfection and what it’s like to live in a body that deviates from the norm. She reveals the subtle ways we are all influenced by the bodies we inhabit, whether our differences are pronounced or noticeable only to ourselves. She talks to people of all shapes, sizes and configurations and takes a hard look at the way media and culture tell us how bodies should and shouldn’t be.

Reading this was like a good kick up the bum for complaining about minor “flaws” that really don’t affect my quality of life. But even more so, it challenged me to ask myself, “What preconceived notions do I – and the society I live in – have about the way people should look?”. And why are these notions there? Why are we fearful when we see someone who looks different? Is this something we can control (perhaps outwardly we can) or are these fears innate within? What I appreciated about this book was the honest and raw writing – the sharing of pieces of Lee that have long been hidden – as well as the sensitive and compassionate insight into people who choose extreme modification or scarification, even when Lee herself was left wondering why.

Brimming with curiosity, Imperfect is for anyone who has ever worried about their appearance or who struggles with low self-esteem or self-confidence due to their looks. It’s not about the kick up the bum, but about learning – with Lee – to accept our judgements of others, our prejudice and ignorance, and to discover new ways of looking at, understanding, and accepting others.

Thanks to Affirm Press for my copy.

Monique Mulligan
For more of Monique Mulligan’s writing on books, check out her blog

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