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

by Andrew Solomon

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Fascinating book filled with both heartbreaking and heartwarming stories. I found several chapters extremely compelling, some a little outdated, and others just too upsetting to finish. As an MD I found the medical history parts rather dry and didn't feel I learned anything new from them, but the family stories and interviews really shine. Chapter 1 was spectacular and should be required reading for just about everyone. I am really in awe of the amount time and love that must have gone into creating this book.
( )
  akbooks | Sep 12, 2019 |
Meticulously researched (in fact, there are over 100 pages of Notes at the end and a Bibliography of almost 100 pages).

This book opened my eyes. I thought I was an accepting, nonjudgemental person. In many ways, however, I was prejudice against certain groups without realizing it. I am much more mindful of others after reading Andrew Solomon's work. Chapters include Deaf, Dwarfs, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia (how difficult for the child and parents!), Prodigies, Rape (continuing the pregnancy or aborting, loving or not loving the child conceived in rape), Crime (what do you do when your child is a criminal, perhaps a murderer), and Transgender (I had no idea the suicide rate for transgender people, when not supported, was this high).

My daughter recommended this book and I highly recommend it to others, particularly educators, healthcare workers, social workers, and psychiatrists. But I also encourage the general population to read this important book. It might open your eyes as it did mine and help us all live in a more accepting, supportive society. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Aug 14, 2019 |
Andrew Solomon takes on identity formation where the shared characteristic isn't fully socially sanctioned. This is a very qualitative reporting on a variety of identities, mostly related to what are considered disabilities in the outside world. Judging from the reporting on Deaf culture, Solomon is an excellent and balanced reporter who hits all the important themes and raises all sides to them -- I was very impressed. But the chapter on autism caused me extensive angst and heartbreak for those parents, and I found myself completely avoiding continuing to read this book at that point. ( )
  pammab | Jan 5, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (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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Epigraph
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"
Dedication
for John, for the sake of whose difference I would gladly give up all the sameness in the world
First words
There is no such thing as reproduction.
Quotations
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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