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Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the…

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity (2012)

by Andrew Solomon

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Another very readable book by Andrew Solomon. In this book he tackles the horizontal identity that parents have with their children. A vertical identity is when traits are passed down from parent to child- their shared traits. Horizontal identity is when children are different from parents. Solomon examines deafness, dwarfs, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, disabilities, prodigies, children of rape, crib and transgender. Very interesting, especially the transgender portion--I learned a lot! ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 20, 2017 |
This book is wonderful - a word I've used to describe a couple of books I've read recently, so perhaps I won't seem terribly discriminating when I use it here. However, it's not often that I give a 5-star rating to a book; in this case it's well deserved. It's also not often that I read a big fat nonfiction book from cover to cover, but in this case it was a pleasure.

The writer, Andrew Solomon, is a journalist and a psychologist. The book is about the relationships between parents and their children, who for various reasons are very different from their parents. These kids could be different because they are deaf, schizophrenic, dwarfs, transgender, prodigies, autistic, children of rape, etc. Solomon spent 10 years researching and writing the book, and during that time interviewed more than 700 families. The result is a book filled with wonderful stories that illuminate the common humanity in all of us.

Yes, there is an appropriate amount of scientific explanation, but it is the facility to bring these people's stories to life that kept me reading. I came away with a new appreciation for the people all around me who are "different," and yet aren't, really.

And if you're a parent (which I'm not), I think this book is a must-read, no matter how "normal" your own child may be. ( )
  meredk | Sep 3, 2017 |
Important book about identity, challenge and disability. Each new chapter was engrossing and illuminating. I don't think I'll look at people who are "other", or their parents, in the same way, ever again. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Brilliant just brilliant writing. Solomon writes enough in each chapter for a book. I could not finish it now but I adore his writing. I have to come back and live through the pain and joys of the chapters i missed.
  newnoz | Aug 6, 2016 |
This book really spoke to me about understanding diversity and accepting the many different ways parents choose to deal with it. It has some flaws in that many of the parents were wealthy enough to form foundations to help others who found themselves with children with similar diversities. I learned so much from this book. It took me about seven months to read it, but it gave me so much to think about. ( )
  barefootcowgirl | Jul 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
In Far from the Tree, he [Andrew Solomon] explores the experience of parents having offspring who in one way or another present them with an unexpected set of problems--either neuropsychological impairments from birth or behavioral problems as they grow. This theme drew Mr. Solomon's attention because he is ever aware of how his emergent homosexuality during adolescence represented a serious challenge to his parents--a challenge that he believes they didn't handle well. . . . He explicitly relates their [the parents he interviews] responses to what he remembers his parents doing and saying to him when they became aware of his homosexual predilections. This feature gives the book both a personal edge and a less than subtle political subtext. In the end, Far From the Tree is an exercise in identity politics. . . . Despite offering touching stories of parents who face challenges they didn't expect--and deal with them nobly--Far From the Tree ignores, to its detriment, some of the most natural and telling aspects of human beings as they relate to each other across the generations.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Paul McHugh (Dec 18, 2012)
Part journalist, part psychology researcher, part sympathetic listener, Solomon's true talent is a geographic one: He maps the strange terrain of the human struggle that is parenting. "Far From the Tree" is the product of a decade of research and interviews with 300 families. For each horizontal identity under discussion, Solomon moves easily from often-harrowing individual stories, told largely in the subjects' own words, to broader observations informed by his theoretical research, and arrives at a surprising level of synthesis.
Narrating the stories of hundreds of families in which children and their parents must struggle with identity — whether due to disability or difference of other kinds — Solomon’s project boils down to this: with stories come understanding, empathy, and respect.
added by melmore | editBoston Globe, Kate Tuttle (Nov 23, 2012)
“Far From the Tree” doesn’t purport to be an original work of theoretical research on family dynamics. It’s more of a hybrid series of thematically linked oral histories, the majority of which are deeply moving about the strength of parents who display heroic energy and creativity.
added by melmore | editWashington Post, Lisa Zeidner (Nov 21, 2012)
...suffice it to say that you end this journey through difference and diversity with an even stronger conviction that life is endlessly, heart-stoppingly, fragile and unknowable.

And yet. Spending time with the parents of a child so disabled he has to be lifted from his bed with a pulley, Solomon notes that to be in the room with them and their son “is to witness a shimmering humanity.” It’s a phrase that should be smoke-trailed across the sky, or at the very least stuck on the family fridge. It’s also a very accurate description of what he’s achieved in this wise and beautiful book.
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The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
—Wallace Stevens, "The Poem of Our Climate"
for John, for the sake of whose difference I would gladly give up all the sameness in the world
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There is no such thing as reproduction.
Having exceptional children exaggerates parental tendencies: those who would be bad parents become awful parents, but those who would be good parents become extraordinary.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743236718, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: Anyone who’s ever said (or heard or thought) the adage “chip off the old block” might burrow into Andrew Solomon’s tome about the ways in which children are different from their parents--and what such differences do to our conventional ideas about family. Ruminative, personal, and reportorial all at once, Solomon--who won a National Book Award for his treatise on depression, The Noonday Demon--begins by describing his own experience as the gay son of heterosexual parents, then goes on to investigate the worlds of deaf children of hearing parents, dwarves born into “normal” families, and so on. His observations and conclusions are complex and not easily summarized, with one exception: The chapter on children of law-abiding parents who become criminals. Solomon rightly points out that this is a very different situation indeed: “to be or produce a schizophrenic...is generally deemed a misfortune,” he writes. “To...produce a criminal is often deemed a failure.” Still, parents must cope with or not, accept or not, the deeds or behaviors or syndromes of their offspring. How they do or do not do that makes for fascinating and disturbing reading. --Sara Nelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:45 -0400)

Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

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