Far From the Tree

Far From the Tree

Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

Book - 2012
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From the National Book Award-winning author of the "brave...deeply humane...open-minded, critically informed, and poetic" ( The New York Times ) The Noonday Demon , comes a book about the consequences of extreme personal and cultural differences between parents and children.

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon's startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon's journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance--all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2012.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9780743236713
0743236718
Characteristics: 962 p. ; 25 cm.

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SCL_Justin Oct 17, 2017

When people have kids there are aspects of continuity from generation to generation, and Solomon refers to these as vertical identities. What this book is about though, is horizontal identities, where a child is very different from the generations that preceded her, and often from everyone else in the household. He looked at 10 different types of these horizontal identities (deaf, autistic, gifted, transgender and more) through tonnes and tonnes of family stories. It was very effective and empathy-building. Very recommended.

AL_ANNAL Aug 09, 2017

Written with wisdom and compassion. For those whose children struggle with issues different from their parents - you are not alone.

l
lgold08540
Jul 12, 2017

As a teacher, I strongly suggest that every educator read this book.

s
stewstealth
Jul 12, 2014

The prose in the book is excellent. The interviews with parents and children are emotionally gripping.This is a book that everyone should read as it relates to identity, something everyone strives to achieve. Although the author does mention it, this collection of stories is non random and therefore this is not a true scientific review of people with the corresponding conditions. Nonetheless this book is an exceptional read.

f
fandesoleil
Jan 09, 2014

This book is very long, but Solomon's prose is gripping, and he has done extensive research and interviewing. He is a big thinker who strives for fairness. I learned something on every page. Highly recommended.

m
molly
Jan 01, 2014

Andrew Solomon is the most popular guest Steve Paikin's The Agenda has ever had; the most viewers. He is a delight and obviously extremely intelligent. I am waiting for The Agenda to have him again as a guest. You can probably play yourself a clip on You Tube

tlctlc Nov 01, 2013

Jill Shumaker suggested I read this book

t
tompko
Aug 12, 2013

If you, or someone you care about, has an individual in the family who does not fit the "family mold". (e.g. gay, autistic, etc.) please read this book and pass it on. It is alos a "must read" for professionals who work with/for familes of exceptional children or adults.

d
Drayjayeff
Apr 12, 2013

It's extremely rare for me to give a book (or anything else, for that matter) a five star rating. Nothing is perfect, after all. However, Far from the Tree treats such an important topic (the necessity of, not just acknowledging and accepting difference, but learning to love it), I have no choice. As I write this, I'm reminded of the cliched promises on old movie posters: "You'll laugh! You'll Cry!". Reading this volume, I did both—often. At times, I found myself at the kitchen table in the wee hours of the morning, chuckling, guffawing, sniffling and/or sobbing. The emotional impact of Far from the Tree is stunning.

ksoles Mar 01, 2013

Monumental? Yes. Intimidating? Definitely. Worthwhile? Absolutely. Andrew Solomon's "Far From The Tree" represents the culmination of a decade's worth of research and writing. The author interviewed hundreds of families for his book and, in 12 chapters filled with inspiring but harrowing stories, he tells of these families' struggles with autism, deafness, schizophrenia, dwarfism and more. Children with these conditions are "apples that have fallen elsewhere — some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world."

Solomon also explores the lives of prodigies, "freaks" of another sort who feel as isolated, mystified and petrified as those with disabilities. Ultimately, he approaches each subject in a profoundly personal way, interweaving his own story of growing up gay, dyslexic and suicidal. He calls for a redefinition of difference, arguing in favour of vulnerability and empathy over ignorance and disgust. He values self-acceptance over fitting in and offers startling, inspiring revelations within a stunning work of scholarship.

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