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Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity Paperback – October 1, 2013
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“Solomon is a storyteller of great intimacy and ease…He approaches each family’s story thoughtfully, respectfully…Bringing together their voices, Solomon creates something of enduring warmth and beauty: a quilt, a choir.” (Kate Tuttle The Boston Globe)
“Solomon’s first chapter, entitled ‘Son,’ is as masterly a piece of writing as I’ve come across all year. It combines his own story with a taut and elegant précis of this book’s arguments. It is required reading…This is a book that shoots arrow after arrow into your heart.” (Dwight Garner The New York Times)
“A brave, beautiful book that will expand your humanity.” (Anne Leslie PEOPLE)
“[Far from the Tree] is a masterpiece of non-fiction, the culmination of a decade’s worth of research and writing, and it should be required reading for psychologists, teachers, and above all, parents…A bold and unambiguous call to redefine how we view difference…A stunning work of scholarship and compassion.” (Carmela Ciuraru USA Today)
“Deeply moving…” (Lisa Zeidner The Washington Post)
“A book of extraordinary ambition…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.” (Brook Wilensky-Lanford The San Francisco Cronicle)
“Monumental…Solomon has an extraordinary gift for finding his way into the relatively hermetic communities that form around conditions…and gaining the confidence of the natives.” (Lev Grossman TIME)
“Masterfully written and brilliantly researched…Far from the Tree stands apart from the countless memoirs and manuals about special needs parenting published in the last couple of decades.” (Tina Calabro Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“A careful, subtle, and surprising book.” (Nathan Heller The New Yorker)
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As an aside, this is a thick book but it does not need to be read cover to cover. Read the first chapter (Son) and then choose the chapter that speaks most to you. Then you can go back later and read other chapters.
“You can admire Deaf culture and still choose not to consign your children to it. The loss of diversity is terrible, but diversity for the sake of diversity is a lie. A Deaf culture kept pure when hearing is available to all would be equivalent to those historical towns where everyone lives as though it were the eighteenth century.”
.......... First of all, parents often make choices based on what’s best for them not their children. As he concedes earlier, a choice to implant a toddler is often for the parents’ benefit so they don’t need to learn sign language. In one lazy swoop, he devalues Deaf culture and the lives of deaf people. Why bother with all that when you can just genetically and/or surgically modify deaf fetuses and children?
People with hearing loss don’t choose to be part of Deaf culture for the sake of diversity. They choose to be part of it because of the innate human desire to celebrate and engage with their identity — this is literally the premise of his book. How is this “a lie”? I don’t follow this sentence.
Lastly, it’s utterly irresponsible and offensive to compare upholding Deaf culture to living in fake historical communities. Much less call it equivalent! Deaf people use adaptive technology to enable them to live in a world functionally built for hearing people. They certainly aren’t hiding in backward-looking colonies trying to recapture life in a simpler time. A person (a parent, a child) has every right to forgo an invasive surgery or in vitro modifications (which he seems to believe is the way we will and should eradicate deafness). Oral culture isn’t necessarily the future. Hearing isn’t destiny. He could just as easily (more easily!!!) reached the conclusion that a hearing world kept inaccessible when accommodations can be made available to all is the equivalent to those historical towns where everyone lives as though it were the eighteenth century. That would have been a far more apt comparison.
Regardless of all the awards this book apparently got, I don’t know if I want to read the rest. I’m really not inclined to read 600+ more pages of Andrew Solomon’s thoughts on marginalized identities now that he has made his agenda and bias so clear. And while I understand that he, perhaps for framing or ego purposes, he decided to superimpose his own narrative as a gay man onto his “study” of these other horizontal identities, his choice to also impose his opinion and judgment on these other identities is distasteful to say the least.
Top international reviews
There is a great deal of wisdom and compassion in this book, which is for the most part, very well written. However all too often, I found myself reading 8 or 10 pages, but feeling as if I'd only received 3 or 4 pages of substance. This is a shame, since no other book has given me such deep and compassionate insight into the lives of people with (for example) Downs and Autism.
If you are happy with a prolonged read, then you will not regret buying this book.
Full of research, interviews and human kindness.