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

Andrew Solomon
  • From the Publisher
December 12, 2013

As a gay child of straight par­ents, Andrew Solomon was born with a con­di­tion that was con­sid­ered an ill­ness, but it became a cor­ner­stone of his iden­ti­ty. While report­ing on the explo­sion of Deaf pride in the 1990s, he began to con­sid­er ill­ness and iden­ti­ty as a con­tin­u­um with shift­ing bound­aries. Spurred by the dis­abil­i­ty-rights move­ment and empow­ered by the Inter­net, com­mu­ni­ties with such hor­i­zon­tal iden­ti­ties” are chal­leng­ing expec­ta­tions and norms.

Their sto­ries begin in fam­i­lies cop­ing with extreme dif­fer­ence: dwarfism, Down syn­drome, autism, mul­ti­ple severe dis­abil­i­ties, or prodi­gious genius; chil­dren con­ceived in rape, or who iden­ti­fy as trans­gen­der; chil­dren who devel­op schiz­o­phre­nia or com­mit seri­ous crimes. The adage asserts that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in Solomon’s explo­rations, some apples fall on the oth­er side of the world.

For ten years, inter­view­ing more than 250 fam­i­lies, Solomon has observed not just how some fam­i­lies learn to deal with excep­tion­al chil­dren, but also how they find pro­found mean­ing in doing so. An utter­ly orig­i­nal thinker, Solomon mines the elo­quence of ordi­nary peo­ple who have some­how sum­moned hope and courage in the face of heart­break­ing prej­u­dice and almost unimag­in­able difficulty.

Far from the Tree is a mas­ter­piece that will rat­tle our prej­u­dices, ques­tion our poli­cies, and inspire our under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship between ill­ness and iden­ti­ty. Above all, it will renew and deep­en our grat­i­tude for the her­culean reach of parental love.

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