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Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Solomon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (591 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.50
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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Solomon, who won the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon (2001), tackles daunting questions involving nature versus nurture, illness versus identity, and how they all affect parenting in his exhaustive but not exhausting exploration of what happens when children bear little resemblance to their parents. He begins by challenging the very concept of human reproduction. We do not reproduce, he asserts, spawning clones. We produce originals. And if we’re really lucky, our offspring will be enough like us or our immediate forebears that we can easily love, nurture, understand, and respect them. But it’s a crapshoot. More often than not, little junior will be born with a long-dormant recessive gene, or she may emerge from the womb with her very own, brand-new identifier—say, deafness, physical deformity, or homosexuality. Years of interviews with families and their unique children culminate in this compassionate compendium. Solomon focuses on the creative and often desperate ways in which families manage to tear down prejudices and preconceived fears and reassemble their lives around the life of a child who alters their view of the world. Most succeed. Some don’t. But the truth Solomon writes about here is as poignant as it is implacable, and he leaves us with a reinvented notion of identity and individual value. --Donna Chavez

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
208 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and well-researched November 20, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Far From the Tree is a TOME. I mean, it's a great big, heavy book in every sense of the word. To be honest, I was a little intimidated when my copy arrived! I didn't read it cover to cover, but started with the autism chapter because it was relevant to our family. I found it to be a very well-researched, sensitive look at how autism can affect a parent's life, hopes, and perceptions.

That chapter was so good, I moved to the crime chapter and stayed up way too late because I could not put it down. Thank you, Mr. Solomon for pointing out the absurdities in our justice system when it comes to dealing with juvenile crime. (And as for the reviewer who questioned including crime at all, this book focuses on any possible way that a child can turn out different than their parents expected, and being guilty of a crime definitely seems appropriate to me.) I learned a lot from this chapter, and was particularly fascinated by the Klebolds' story. Once again, Soloman wrote with sensitivity about a very difficult and controversial topic.

From there I read the chapter on dwarfism, and then finally turned to the first pages of the book and started reading the beginning! I wanted to learn about how families deal with a diagnosis of autism; instead I learned about how families deal with all kinds of unexpected outcomes, how resilient parents can be when faced with hardships, and how connected are the identities of parents and their children. As a parent, I understand the constant struggle to balance who we want our children to be and who they actually are. "There is no such thing as reproduction" may be my new mantra.

One more thing: in 700 pages (okay, I admit, I didn't read the Acknowledgments) I never found an example of "martyrdom" that one reviewer complained about.
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183 of 192 people found the following review helpful
By Jack
Format:Hardcover
How do we raise children who are profoundly different than we are?
This is the question posed by award-winning writer Andrew Solomon in "Far From The Tree." How do parents deal with raising a child who isn't what they expected him or her to be? What if the child is autistic? Deaf? Has Down Syndrome? And how much does nurture have to do with the people our children become? Or is it more due to nature?

Solomon began writing this book twelve years ago, after attending a protest of deaf students who opened his eyes to seeing people with `differences' as not having disabilities, but having their own unique gifts. He follows the lives of many families who are faced with the challenge of raising children who are profoundly different than they expected them to be. Each of these stories reveals in their own way the nature of humanity, the unconditional love of parents for their children, and the desire for all humans to be valued as individuals.

Solomon also shines a spotlight on his own upbringing. The gay son of heterosexual parents, who was also dyslexic and bullied for not conforming to the stereotypical expectations of what a typical male should be, Solomon reveals how he overcame his insecurities to not only accept himself, but to decide to become a father.

Reading this book made me think of two other exceptional books that also deal with unique parenting challenges.

Anthony Youn's In Stitches successfully spotlights the clash that occurs when immigrant, old-school parents raise a child in today's America. How do children react when their parents push them excessively, causing them to become social outcasts?
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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone will be talking November 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Everyone will be talking about this book and everyone should. Mr. Solomon's deeply personal narration and vivid story-telling combine with extensive factual scholarship to make compelling reading out of topics you might otherwise expect to find repugnant or marginal. Full disclosure: I read an early draft and have been waiting ever since for others to have this chance to expand their hearts by reading it, too.

The book offers a world of information on particular conditions; it ponders the wider implications of choice and identity for both the parents and the children dealing with dwarfism, deafness, criminality, etc. And just as learning you are not alone with a special gift or disability can be liberating for an individual person, so learning that other families are dealing with the same conditions can give heart to parents who feel isolated. Moreover, those who have had to focus on one particular condition will be led to see wider commonalities. All of us know someone who is profoundly different from their parents. And because Mr. Solomon brings coherence to the book by thinking across conditions, he implicitly opens the way for thinking about analogous conditions not specifically covered.

What is most deeply moving is Mr. Solomon's ability to portray each individual as a unique person. The book is full of voices and stories, a reminder that we are all always surrounded by people who are like us, different from us, and challenged in ways we've never thought of before. Together, they are sobering reminders of how deep the pain of the human condition can be, but also sources of inspiration and hope.

Mr. Solomon is never dogmatic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars such a nice book. it is like a complete new book
such a nice book.it is like a complete new book.
Published 9 hours ago by Jessin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome book. A must read book. Good delivery by Amazon, as always.
Published 1 day ago by Shreyas Jayanna
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books of the year
One of my favorite books of the year. The overlying thesis of identities and when parents/children don't share similar ones--was very well observed. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Jackie Militello
5.0 out of 5 stars But it is very good and well written
This book is fascinating. I've actually been reading it in sections because it is so long. But it is very good and well written.
Published 5 days ago by Kathy Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 24 days ago by Traci Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
In depth study of "being different".
Published 24 days ago by Pamela Garofalo
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Book!
Amazing book by Andrew Solomon. My wife couldn't stop talking about the depth that it covers the territory with and the empathy that the author brings out. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Srivats Ram
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing first chapter.
The book is beautifully written, especially given how hard the material is emotionally.

Best first chapter--should be must read material for all parents. Read more
Published 26 days ago by AmazonPrimus
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
The book arrived in very good condition.
Published 29 days ago by Marina
4.0 out of 5 stars Love conquered all
A glimpse into the lives of the outliers. Parents and children who aren't in the bell part of that curve. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
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