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

by Andrew Solomon

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1,1793811,833 (4.41)60
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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» See also 60 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
What a remarkable book! Andrew Solomon spent years in research and it shows. He has very nicely spliced this with great stories of individuals and families which really helps us to understand what he found. This really is a lot about parenting and how people cope when their world goes askew. Many touching tales. I found myself asking over and over, "What would I do?" It helped me see a world very different from my own with clarity and insight. Great empathy builder. Thank you Mr Solomon for all you have brought us with this fine book. ( )
  njcur | Jun 15, 2020 |
Outstanding dialog... ( )
  Brightman | Jun 13, 2020 |
A book mostly about what it’s like for parents and children who are very different from each other, though there’s a bit about deaf of deaf people and how their experiences are distinct from deaf of hearing people. Solomon covers mostly differences that are widely understood as negative (e.g., children with Downs syndrome, pervasive disabilities, schizophrenia, and severe autism), as well as dwarfism, criminality, children who are transgender, prodigies, and some on his own experience as the gay child of heterosexual parents who eventually decides he wants to parent, knowing that his children will likely be heterosexual. Although most of us want to re-produce key traits when we start down the child-having path, he suggests, most parents that he talks to (though not all, and he notes that he gets a biased sample) say they wouldn’t change the children they actually have. ( )
  rivkat | Feb 5, 2020 |
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 I found several chapters extremely compelling, some a little outdated, and others just too upsetting to finish.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 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (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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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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