counter create hit Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

Andrew Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who Andrew Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or 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, and Solomon documents triumphs of love over prejudice in every chapter. All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on ten years of research and interviews with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far from the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life.


Compare
Ads Banner

Andrew Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who Andrew Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or 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, and Solomon documents triumphs of love over prejudice in every chapter. All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on ten years of research and interviews with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far from the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life.

30 review for Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    With the full disclosure that I used to work for the publisher of Far from the Tree and spent a lot of time helping to bring this book to life, I can say hands-down that this is one of the very best--and most important--works of nonfiction I've ever read (and probably will read for a long time to come). Solomon, who won The National Book Award for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, spent ten years interviewing families that are extraordinary in every sense of the word, but most particula With the full disclosure that I used to work for the publisher of Far from the Tree and spent a lot of time helping to bring this book to life, I can say hands-down that this is one of the very best--and most important--works of nonfiction I've ever read (and probably will read for a long time to come). Solomon, who won The National Book Award for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, spent ten years interviewing families that are extraordinary in every sense of the word, but most particularly in that the parents, by having borne children who are incredibly different from themselves, have become better people in ways they could never have imagined. These children are deaf, dwarfs, have Down Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and other severe disabilities; they are prodigies, criminals, conceived in rape, or transgender. Spanning 700 monumental pages (the remaining 250 are notes and index) the stories in Far from the Tree,which are interspersed with deep research and bookended by Solomon's own story as a gay son and father, create an astounding narrative scope, at the heart of which is the argument that we need to accept these people as having full and rich identities, as opposed to simply illnesses or conditions. Solomon writes, “Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference is what unites us. While each of these experiences [of the disabled] can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.” There’s so much in Far from the Tree that to capture its breadth in a review this short is impossible. Let’s just say it’s about nothing less than what it means to be human. To read even a page of its laser-sharp prose is to experience a worldview that’s revolutionary in its humanity and empathy. Don’t be daunted by the length; reading experiences this good are worth drawing out and savoring as much as possible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Patterson

    I have been disabled all my life. I have cerebral palsy which means that at this point in my life I walk with two canes. Though my parents sought medical attention for me, eventually they embraced my paternal grandmother's Christian Science faith. I have through the years been considered crippled, handicapped, disabled, differently abled and physically challenged. I am who I am both because of and in spite of my parents. Andrew Solomon's book is wonderful because he is so open to any possibilit I have been disabled all my life. I have cerebral palsy which means that at this point in my life I walk with two canes. Though my parents sought medical attention for me, eventually they embraced my paternal grandmother's Christian Science faith. I have through the years been considered crippled, handicapped, disabled, differently abled and physically challenged. I am who I am both because of and in spite of my parents. Andrew Solomon's book is wonderful because he is so open to any possibility. He enters so fully into the lives of the people whom he interviews that he helps you understand what their lives are like. All of these families have difficulties but the ones who seem to do best are those who accept (and in some cases) embrace the difference and who say to their children "I love you as you are" and thereby allow their children to accept themselves.(That, alas, sounds like a Hallmark greeting card and Mr. Solomon's book never gets mawkish and his explanations of the difficulties these families face are never facile). I also loved Mr. Solomon's inclusion of all sorts of differences. He talks about transgendered people, criminals (his interview with Dylan Klebold's mother is very moving) and geniuses. I know a bit more about Joshua Bell's relationship with his mother than I might like, but the chapter was very entertaining. Mr. Solomon himself is part of this tapestry. He discusses his mother's wish to correct his homosexuality much as she fixed his dyslexia and the teasing he underwent because of he was more interested in opera plots than football plays. As an adult he has married and talks about the feelings he had as he contemplated the possibility of having to raise a disabled child (the child is not disabled and Mr Solomon confesses his relief) Many the families to whom Mr. Solomon speaks are well off (if they can't find a suitable place for their children to be treated they start one) and I sometimes fear he may be preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, this is a marvelous book and it's wonderfully written. It deserves the widest possible audience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    Mind-shifting excellence. https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solo... In 1993 Andrew Solomon was assigned by the New York Times to write about Deaf culture. Most deaf children are born to hearing parents, and those parents often prioritize teaching them to function in the hearing world, spending years on lipreading and spoken language, precious years that could have been spent learning history, maths or philosophy. Many of those children stumble upon Deaf identity in adolescence, setting out onto a l Mind-shifting excellence. https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solo... In 1993 Andrew Solomon was assigned by the New York Times to write about Deaf culture. Most deaf children are born to hearing parents, and those parents often prioritize teaching them to function in the hearing world, spending years on lipreading and spoken language, precious years that could have been spent learning history, maths or philosophy. Many of those children stumble upon Deaf identity in adolescence, setting out onto a liberating ocean of Sign as language, leaving their parents behind on the shore. Then a friend of Solomon's had a daughter who was a dwarf, and she spent much energy on the vexed question of how she should bring her daughter up: should she consider herself the same as everyone else, only shorter; should she have dwarf role models, or should she investigate surgical limb-lengthening? Solomon saw in these patterns arresting parallels with his own life: he is both dyslexic and gay. The first condition was one that his mother fixed, through hard work, practice, training, but always with a sense of this being a kind of private game between the two of them, a puzzle that needed to be solved. At six, he was turned down by eleven schools in New York City on the grounds that he would never learn to read or write. A year later he showed advanced reading skills - a triumph over a neurological abnormality which, unfortunately "set the stage for our later struggles by making it hard to believe that we couldn't reverse the creeping evidence of another perceived abnormality-my being gay." After ten years of thorough research and interviews with over three hundred families Solomon produced this monumental and deservedly lauded book, which sets out the conundrum within those families who have children in some way alien to the parents: in how far do you see a condition that your child is born with, or develops later, one that makes her atypical, as an illness that needs to be fixed, and how far do you see it as an identity that needs to be accepted? If you try to fix it are you rejecting the person your child is? And if you don't, are you condemning that child to a much tougher existence than might be necessary, maybe one involving pain, mental, or physical, or both? Surely as a parent, your first instinct is to protect? A child may interpret even well-intentioned efforts to fix him as sinister. Jim Sinclair, an intersex autistic person, wrote, "When parents say, 'I wish my child did not have autism,' what they're really saying is, 'I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.' Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers that you can love will move in behind our faces." Solomon is a gifted narrator: he has a felicitous knack of swift and memorable characterisation, he braids together the individual human and scientific insights, he is able to retain the equivalence and the moral quandaries without losing focus, he has the lightest of touches, sprightly without ever stepping over the boundary into over-intimate flippancy. He must be a congenial interviewer too, never judgemental I'm sure, otherwise people would not lay open their lives to him as they do. I rarely weep at films or books, but this one brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye on more than one of the 700 pages. The most challenging chapter was the one on autism, because it is such a complex phenomenon, and so little understood despite its increasing incidence and recognition. I found the chapter on the children born of rape very hard to get through at all, had to space it out in small doses. But the most affecting was the close relationship that Solomon managed to build with the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the two Columbine perpetrators. As might be imagined, they were ostracised by the community where they live, thus having to deal with the loss of their son as well as the shock of his crime and how they had misapprehended him, along with the opprobrium of their friends and the curiosity of strangers. When Sue got breast cancer, that, for her, was 'comic relief'. Resilience through sardonic humour. Human beings are amazingly resilient. With the caveat that those willing to be interviewed are more likely to be those who are not bitter, what nevertheless roars out of these pages is a lionhearted vindication of the power of love. It has to be said that love and acceptance are not the same thing; love will often be there, unasked, unquestioned, unassuming and unconscious. Acceptance takes time. Sometimes a very long time. Those who manage best to negotiate the stormy waters are those who can find positives in their ordeal. Religious faith can be helpful, but it isn't a sine qua non. There was at least one mother who said that if another person says to her something along the lines of "God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers", she'll scream. Divine beings do not need to be invoked: humans are quite capable of recognizing for themselves that problems and troubles can act as a crucible, tempering their love into something harder and stronger. The most important thing, often, is a belief in something bigger than one's own experience. The most common form of coherence is religion, but it has many other mechanisms. You can believe in God, in the human capacity for good, in justice or simply in love. I found so much that resonated in this work, and not just because I am the mother of a dyslexic gay myself. Fortunately, for me and for her, the dyslexia was not severe. Hardly a defect at all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    I'll be the odd reader out here on Goodreads and admit I did not like this book. There were some lovely sentences, some very nice connections established between ideas....but there was a lot of clunk, too. One of the disappointments for me is that the book doesn't so much document how "ordinary" families have dealt with unexpected horizontal identities in their children as it documents how extraordinary and wealthy families have done so--except in the chapters about rape and crime....there, it se I'll be the odd reader out here on Goodreads and admit I did not like this book. There were some lovely sentences, some very nice connections established between ideas....but there was a lot of clunk, too. One of the disappointments for me is that the book doesn't so much document how "ordinary" families have dealt with unexpected horizontal identities in their children as it documents how extraordinary and wealthy families have done so--except in the chapters about rape and crime....there, it seems the poor could be included, while the non-poor must be excluded. Except for Dylan Klebold. The book reads as if Solomon recruited families by placing an ad in the back of The Atlantic. The poor and working-class families I work with face the same challenges as the parents of autistic, intellectually disabled, deaf, etc., children Solomon writes about, but with none of the access to information, services or respite afforded by wealth. I hesitate to suggest anything that would have made the book even longer, but I don't feel like he's given a realistic description of family responses to unexpected horizontal identities when he's leaving out the vast majority of families and most of those without the buffers that can help parents tolerate very difficult caretaking situations. As for his focus on poor families in the chapter on crime, sigh. Low hanging fruit. What about all the criminal kids from higher income families? They are all around. If he didn't look for those kids, ergh. If he looked and their parents wouldn't talk, then (again, not to make the book longer, but come on!) say so, and say something about what that means.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This highly lauded and hefty book is about the experience of having a child outside the norm. The author explores homosexuality (his own), and the lives of a variety of children who are dwarfs, severely disabled, schizophrenic, deaf, transgendered, criminal and those with Down's Syndrome. The author is a psychiatrist. I found him to be a man of exceptional kindness and wisdom, who writes with much thoughtfulness about the families he interviewed, and the illness, disabilities or identities he ha This highly lauded and hefty book is about the experience of having a child outside the norm. The author explores homosexuality (his own), and the lives of a variety of children who are dwarfs, severely disabled, schizophrenic, deaf, transgendered, criminal and those with Down's Syndrome. The author is a psychiatrist. I found him to be a man of exceptional kindness and wisdom, who writes with much thoughtfulness about the families he interviewed, and the illness, disabilities or identities he has researched. The book took him ten years to research, and I think this is reflected in the depth of his insights. There is a huge amount of information in this book, and rather than cover titbits from various sections I am going to just refer to two chapters. Firstly the chapter about children resulting from an episode of rape. This was an area I knew little about, and it was a devastating eye-opener. I had underestimated how cruel and savage most rapes are, especially when part of the gross abuses of war. I was also very upset to learn about the common outcome for children who have resulted from war rape, and the deep ambivalence and sometimes hatred felt by these mothers for their children. Unbelievably, due to US policies they were not able to access help with abortions via US aid, which under the circumstances would seem the only humane option for many of these women. (view spoiler)[ "Whilst the UN Human Rights Council has indicated that denying a woman an abortion after rape may constitute cruel and inhuman treatment...the United States continues to enforce the 1978 Helms Amendment, which states, "No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions." The current interpretation of that language is that any country or organisation that receives US aid is prohibited from discussing or providing abortions even to women pregnant owing to war-time rape. "The truth is, almost all women pregnant from wartime rape would choose to abort," Said Janet Benshoof, president of the Global Justice Centre. "In Congo, 40% of the rape victims are children. If you're thirteen, how can you bear a child? The mortality rates are incredible. The UN estimates that 20% of women who are raped in conflict and denied abortions will try to self-abort - which doesn't include the ones who have killed themselves instead..... The US government pays for so-called clean-up kits to treat women who have botched their self-abortions", Benshoof said, "so we clearly know what's going on." (hide spoiler)] The other chapter which really made me review my ideas (my prejudices?), was the chapter on crime, families who have children who are criminal, and how we treat people in the juvenile criminal system. Whilst the author accepts the need for prisons, he feels there is a desperate need for therapeutic intervention to help these kids. In many instances he feels they are keen to change their lives. Instead they often get imprisoned, which just encourages further criminality. (view spoiler)[ An argument for therapeutic interventions There are organisations promoting other ways of dealing with wayward teenagers. One of these is "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" This is an organisation led by more than 2,500 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and others in law enforcement. They state: "Those on the front lines in the fight against crime know that it's impossible to arrest and imprison our way out of the crime problem" A meta-analysis that collated 200 studies found that whilst the best rehabilitative programmes - behavioural therapy, teaching family programmes - achieved a 30%-40% reduction in recidivism even for serious offenders, punitive therapies had null or negative effects. The National Institute of Health advised "Scare tactics don't work, and may make the problem worse." The rate of violent juvenile crime has gone down since 1994 It is about half of what it used to be. The rate for murder is down 75%. In some instances criminality may be genetic The idea of a bad seed seems outmoded, but some people seem born without a moral centre....some are geared towards violence and destruction, lack all sense of empathy, or have a blurry sense of truth. In most people though, the criminal potential requires external stimulus to be activated. Maribeth Champoux at The National Institute of Health and her colleagues have shown that newborn monkeys with a gene for extreme aggression will not grow up to be aggressive if they are cross-fostered by extremely gentle mothers. Avashalom Caspi at Duke has done research with humans that suggests the same. The gene (a genetic irregularity associated with changed function in a particular serotonin transporter) appears not to confer criminal behaviour, but a vulnerability to develop such behaviour under certain circumstances. A family can provide a positive or negative environment. Many Juveniles are drug or alcohol users Only 1% of those arrested receive substance abuse treatment. Many juveniles have mental health problems As many as 3 out of 4 incarcerated juveniles have a mental health diagnosis, as opposed to 1 out of 5 in the general population of 9-17 year old youngsters. Many juveniles have learning disabilities Some 50-80% of juvenile crime is associated with learning disabilities. Young criminals often don't enjoy their own crimes "Often they were trapped in a behaviour that made them as miserable as it made their victims. Criminality felt in many cases more like an illness than many of the "illnesses" I had set out to study. We fail to treat some people with this condition who could recover and would like to do so." There are theories that it is the social milieu that influences children more than their families This is what social critic Judy Harris argues. Unlike adults, juveniles most often commit crimes in groups; and 'groupness' often determines their criminal patterns. It is part of the youthful urge to fit in and impress. Gangs Two-thirds of chronic juvenile offenders are gang members Gangs in the USA in 2009 731,000 gang members Half of them juveniles 28,000 gangs. Gangs are brutal and violent, but also allow young men intimacy with their peers - often in situations where they have no other occasion to bond. Helping parents to help their kids "I kept meeting parents who wanted to help their kids but didn't have the knowledge or the means to do so effectively. They couldn't access the social services to which they were entitled. Heaping criticism on these parents exacerbates a problem that we could instead resolve. We deny the reality of their lives not only at the expense of our humanity but also at our personal peril." In a meta analysis of 163 studies William R Shadish, professor of psychology at the University of California, demonstrated that family interventions are the most productive ones . Another meta analysis concluded the same. Family therapy has also proved to be very good. Early intervention brings the best results. The 2001 US Surgeon General's report on youth violence confirmed that prenatal home visits to teach parenting skills to expectant mothers can reduce juvenile crime. Such programmes are most effective when followed up. One researcher likened this approach to the dental model, in which regular maintenance is required to ensure good health - not the vaccination model, in which a single early-childhood action can prevent disease. (hide spoiler)] I got a tremendous amount from this book. I learnt lots of things about conditions which I knew little about before. I learnt a huge amount about parenting and having children (I am childless). But most of all I got to sit in the mind of a generous, wise and caring man, and share a vision of the world more benign than my own. I think it was probably the last benefit that was most important.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm still not sure if this was a great book or a terrible book to read while 38-weeks pregnant. I didn't go looking for Far from the Tree, but I came across a copy a few days ago and felt drawn to it. Throughout this pregnancy (my first) I've felt terrified by the possibility of having a child with a serious intellectual disability. It really bothers me that I feel this way, and I was hoping that this book might help me understand why the thought upsets me so much, and even see how I might come I'm still not sure if this was a great book or a terrible book to read while 38-weeks pregnant. I didn't go looking for Far from the Tree, but I came across a copy a few days ago and felt drawn to it. Throughout this pregnancy (my first) I've felt terrified by the possibility of having a child with a serious intellectual disability. It really bothers me that I feel this way, and I was hoping that this book might help me understand why the thought upsets me so much, and even see how I might come to terms with that situation, should it arise. I think Far from the Tree did help me with this in some ways, but it transmitted a previously nonexistent horror of having a kid with severe autism, so I'm not sure I came out ahead. This is a pretty long book and I read it in three days without doing much else, so in some ways I obviously must have really liked it. In other ways, though, I had some issues with it, and I'm not sure which star rating to give -- it's either a three or a four. Okay, so this sounds incredibly cheesy to say, but my heart loved this book while my brain kind of hated it. If you're familiar with the existing discourse surrounding Solomon's topics, and if you expect certain, I don't know, scholarly or intellectual conventions to be followed, there's a lot in here to make you uncomfortable as you read. First, there's a huge conceptual leap of faith in accepting the book's basic premise: Solomon is a gay man born in 1963, and organizes the book in reference to his parents' negative reaction to his homosexuality. He describes homosexuality as a "horizontal identity," not shared with his parents, as opposed to a "vertical" one, which in his case would be qualifiers he shared with them, such as rich, white, and Manhattanite (more on those later). Solomon's homosexuality is thus the controlling metaphor for the very widely varied categories of children he explores: he looks at the relationship between parents who are not and their kids who are deaf, dwarves, affected by Down syndrome, autistic, schizophrenic, severely disabled, musical prodigies, the product of rape, convicted of crimes, and transgender. While the categories in the first half of the book share an obvious consistency, some of the later categories are at best odd and at worst incredibly problematic. Solomon's continued references to his own experience being gay are supposed to function as the glue that holds this all together, and for me this just didn't work. The chapter on children of rape was the most bizarrely out of place: it seemed like he was trying to make this completely divergent topic fit with his other material, but for me it just didn't on any level. The chapter about kids who commit crimes was similarly disparate, and had some real internal problems of its own. The one on musical prodigies, which fit a bit better with the disability stuff, I found tiresome for the most part and if you're not interested in classical music or the people who play it, I might suggest skipping it (there were two interviews I liked -- both of Chinese-American boy prodigies and their mothers -- but I wish he hadn't focused exclusively on the musical set if he was going to look at prodigies, because it veered off into a discussion of classical music that felt irrelevant to the rest of the book and personally bored me a lot). More distressingly, Andrew Solomon has a tone deafness about class that for me undermined the entire book. While I didn't keep a formal count, it seemed that an overwhelming majority of the families he interviewed in the first (disability) half of the book were extraordinarily well off. This made some sense when he was seeking out parents who'd started schools and organizations, since it follows that that population would have more than the usual amount of resources, but a lot of the families hadn't done anything like that, and it was hard to understand the enormous overrepresentation of rich, Ivy-educated Manhattanites, except by recalling that this describes Solomon's own (vertical) identity. As other reviewers on here have noted, presenting mostly families who have vast economic and social resources presents a very incomplete picture of what it's like for most people to raise a disabled child. There were a few working-class families interviewed here and there, and these were among the more compelling stories in many ways. While it did not suffer from any such focus on people of great means, the lack of attention to social class and context was most glaring in the "Crime" chapter of the book, which was also the most problematic in its lack of any clear guiding theory or method. This section didn't make sense to me with the rest of the book, and Solomon seems to see no difference between an inner city gang member robbing people, on the one hand, and Dylan Klebold's mass shooting at Columbine, on the other. For Solomon, crime is crime, whether its origins are in drug addition, poverty, or sociopathy, and whether the crime in question is child molestation or robbery. This is so alien to my own understanding of crime, and of the variation in parents' responses to their children's crimes, that this chapter was difficult at times for me to read. Solomon covered several topics I already know a lot about, and for me these tended to be the weaker chapters and the ones that made me most uncomfortable. While he is conversant with the discourse of disability rights, he is also at many times critical of it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in places I felt he missed some important points about people's right to determination. The schizophrenia chapter was another one I didn't like and felt was deceptively selective in the people it represented. Nearly all the schizophrenics he talks about are on Clozaril, which makes sense in a way since he's interested in the most extreme cases, but in another way it doesn't. I also felt that the paucity of the schizophrenic subjects speaking for themselves here, as opposed to being largely represented by their families' narratives, was a bit hard to understand given that these subjects were all adults and capable of language. I've worked with a lot of people with schizophrenia and felt he made the disease sound like a much more totalizing, dehumanizing force than it usually is, and his dismissal of mentally-ill activists felt very dismissive and paternalistic. Much of this was because of his focus on very sick (and, it seemed to me, perhaps disproportionally violent) people, which to some extent makes sense, but I felt it painted a more extreme and bleak picture of schizophrenia than I myself have after years of working in the mental health field. If I hadn't known a lot of schizophrenics who live compromised but not completely horrible lives, Solomon's portrayal would've freaked me out and made me think schizophrenia was the worst thing in the world. This made me question his credibility in the chapters about things I know less about -- such as autism -- that had made a big impression on (i.e., scared the shit out of) me. So those are some of the issues that I had with the book. Basically, I could have done with a lot less of Solomon's personal pronouncements and analysis, which I sometimes strongly disagreed with and sometimes just found unnecessary and inadequately justified. As I read, I had a very active, angsty critical response that kept being upset by characterizations and generalizations that seemed problematic to me. But despite all these objections, Far from the Tree is in many respects an exceptionally fine book. While I never bought into the central premise that these subjects are all connected, nearly all of them are fascinating and the breadth of his research is astonishing. What is most impressive, though, is Solomon's skill as an interviewer. Andrew Solomon is clearly a very gifted person who is able to get his subjects to express themselves eloquently about the most intensely emotional and private topics, and then represent their voices and narratives in a way that throws all their dignity and the complexity of human experience into gorgeous relief. If you take out all the problematic stuff this book is a series of narratives, and they are almost all fascinating and profoundly moving. I kind of wish he'd done it as a Stud Terkeley-type oral history and just let his subjects speak for themselves, but that probably wouldn't have worked to make a coherent book, though I might've liked it more. The book's theme is about parents loving a child who is different from them, whose experience is not what they expected for their offspring and that on some level remains incomprehensible to the parents. It's also about the challenges of raising kids who need a lot of accommodation and support that most other kids don't. Solomon claims in the title and inside that the book is about "the search for identity" but I felt this was an inconsistent theme. This inconsistency reflected the central problem with his basing this on personal experience being gay, which seemed much less relevant in some chapters than in others. It worked in some ways for the Deaf chapter, though not entirely; it worked best in the Trans chapter, which is probably why this struck me as one of the more nuanced and less objectionable treatments in the book. Toward the end, Solomon quotes William Dean Howells's assertion that "what the American public always wants is a tragedy with a happy ending." With his book Solomon "seeks the nobility buried in Howells's disparagement," and he finds it. The intensity of pain represented by the stories here is nearly overwhelming. What sticks with me most at the end is not so much the physical torments of young children born with severe physical disabilities, but the shocking cruelty and ignorance of other people, in particular the heartlessness of medical staff. Over and over again, parents reported comments by doctors that made me cry when I read them. One example: "Louis asked the doctor whether [his newborn infant] was going to be okay. 'I wouldn't rush to endow a chair at Harvard for her,' he said. Louis and Greta were outraged. 'I couldn't believe that was how he'd tell me that my daughter was likely to be profoundly retarded,' Louis said." Uh, yeah, it's a little hard to believe? But that's really mild compared to many other stories showing how often doctors and the wider society have told parents that there is something so severely wrong with their children that these children aren't deserving of love. The happy ending of this tragedy is that these parents nearly all do love their children, fiercely and often at the cost of enormous sacrifice and effort, and always in a way that is transformative to the parent, which sounds corny but in the book it really isn't. One really striking thing is how many of the parents said, even after losing their children to early death, that they would never exchange that experience or child for a different one, and that this child was the best thing that ever happened to them. The whole book is about the strength of parental love, which sounds dumb, but it does avoid saccharine cliches, evident by its darkness in the areas where there are exceptions -- most disturbingly, for me, in the autism chapter, which represented the most miserable group of parents aside from the rape victims, which I don't really count because I don't think the rape section fit into the book. Far from the Tree did make me think more about why the idea of having an intellectually disabled child upsets me so much. The answer was somewhat illuminating, and made me think a lot about being a parent, and why I'm doing it, and what I need to consider more carefully. A big theme of this book was that parents have expectations of what their children are going to be like, and that they tend to want their children to be like them. While obviously any parent would hate to see her child sick or in pain and most of us want our kids to have as few obstacles to overcome as possible, the thought of having a kid who is, say, deaf or who can't walk doesn't freak me out. While I do value my mobility and really hope my kid has that advantage too, my ability to hear and walk, like being attracted to men, isn't something I feel defines me in an important way and I don't have a strong emotional attachment to my daughter doing those things. But when I think about raising a kid, I do fantasize about teaching her to read, and look forward to watching her learn to think and articulate her thoughts with words, because these are things I care about, that are important to my sense of who I am and why I enjoy living in the world. I also look forward to seeing her interact with other people and form personal relationships, because while I might not be very good at it, my sense of connection with others is hugely important to me. So ultimately, being afraid to have a kid who is very limited mentally, who isn't highly verbal or who lacks the ability to form connections with others, springs from my own narcissism. In wanting a daughter who'll be capable of and interested in these things that I value, I'm not so different from the aging football star who tries to force his son to become quarterback, or the super-feminine mom dismayed by a daughter who takes androgens and goes by Steve. You shouldn't have children because you want them to be like you, and you need to let go of your expectations of how your kids will be because however they are you're going to need to love them. This book helped me think about that, and it also helped me conceptualize how a parent's hopes and expectations for her kid can be really damaging, if they're inflexible or overvalued. Solomon uses disability and other difference almost metaphorically to illustrate how parental love must not be contingent, and how difficult that can be for parents truly to understand and put into practice. This was one level where his gay thing did sort of work in pulling it together, and where most of the disparate topics gained some kind of cohesion. While his book did a good job of illustrating these points, they're hard to remember. When I got to the largely incongruous and mostly boring Prodigies chapter (which seems to have been written when Solomon got burned out halfway through and decided to have a little fun about something he personally enjoys but I don't, i.e., classical music), I was like, "Jesus, my kid better not want music lessons, dragging her around to all those practices, and sitting through fucking recitals, ugh, I'd die..." Then I jarringly remembered that just three chapters earlier I'd sworn I'd be thrilled as hell to wind up with any kid who isn't physically assaultive, nonverbal, and prone to smearing shit all over the walls. Obviously, I could totally wind up with a kid who does all these things, or who, despite my fervent hopes, plays violin. Far from the Tree simultaneously terrified me by making me read story after story about children missing parts of their brains who will never be able to care for themselves, and also comforted me, by showing that in these situations, many (though not all) parents are able to step up to the plate. Far from the Tree demonstrated that you don't stay the same person you were when necessity demands more from you. I think Solomon does a great job of showing the dangers of hagiographies and depictions of these parents that make them seem like superheroes, while showing the strength that people do display when faced with really difficult situations. I cried like fifty times while reading this book, sometimes in horror and despair at human cruelty and suffering, but more often at stories of people proving themselves to be highly decent human beings. It is an optimistic book: things are generally better now than at any time for most of these groups of people -- though as Solomon discusses in depth, selective abortion is shrinking the numbers of some, such as those with Down syndrome, even as public understanding and access to services improve. And while there are certainly tons of shitty, terrible people and parents out there, there are also good people and good parents, which is a comforting thought as for the first time I prepare to try and become one myself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ami

    When this book originally came out, I thought I didn't need to read it, since I'm not especially interested in having children of my own. There are not even words to describe how off the mark I was about that. Like the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which purports to be able introverts but is actually more about what humans need to exist happily in the world, this book is ostensibly about children but is really about how humans learn to fit themselves int When this book originally came out, I thought I didn't need to read it, since I'm not especially interested in having children of my own. There are not even words to describe how off the mark I was about that. Like the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which purports to be able introverts but is actually more about what humans need to exist happily in the world, this book is ostensibly about children but is really about how humans learn to fit themselves into the world. It is not a short book--I've read nothing but this title for the past two weeks, and I am not a slow reader at all--but the length is completely worth it. Now that I've finished it, I find myself quite missing his compassionate and wise voice. I don't think I have the attention span to immediately jump into his previous books, but they are on the list to read in the future.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    An amazing book about the love it takes to raise extraordinary children. Andrew Solomon's 700-page powerhouse Far from the Tree explores the families of kids with stigmatized conditions: kids born deaf, with autism, or as prodigies; kids who are the progeny of rape, who commit crimes, who are disabled; kids who have disabilities, dwarfism, and Down syndrome. He delves into the intricacies of each of these issues, including several case studies that he collected after ten years of interviews with An amazing book about the love it takes to raise extraordinary children. Andrew Solomon's 700-page powerhouse Far from the Tree explores the families of kids with stigmatized conditions: kids born deaf, with autism, or as prodigies; kids who are the progeny of rape, who commit crimes, who are disabled; kids who have disabilities, dwarfism, and Down syndrome. He delves into the intricacies of each of these issues, including several case studies that he collected after ten years of interviews with more than 300 families. Solomon displays remarkable research skill in this book, as well as a stunning compassion and care for the diverse humans he writes about. I appreciate this book so much because it focuses on love instead of hate. Yes, hatred for these kids is well and alive - people scorn boys who want to be girls, teens who've committed crimes, and disabled children who are already so often mocked and denigrated. But through listening to the families of these children, sharing these stories, and synthesizing research about their unique situations, Solomon builds a deep reservoir of empathy, an empathy that is more necessary than ever when our world is so filled with anger and misunderstanding (I'm looking at you, President Elect Trump.) He discusses how transgender children have to fight against outdated gender norms to live as their true selves, how kids who have committed crimes have suffered unspeakable abuse and need more therapy than punishment, how disabled children often exhibit a special, bittersweet resilience, and more. Humans often turn their fear of the unknown into hate. I hope that through reading this book, we can all come to understand those who are different than us, so we can spread a message of unity and kindness, instead of division and hate. Overall, recommended to anyone who wants to read about extraordinary families, psychology and sociology, and humans who are often ostracized, even when they deserve love as much as any of us do. While Far from the Tree is lengthy and sometimes reads like Solomon just lists one case study after another, it is a manageable read if you give yourself space to digest it. As a gay Asian man who has faced my own trials and tribulations, I have so much respect for Solomon and how he transforms his suffering into such beautiful, intelligent writing. Looking forward to reading more of his work in the future.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    This book can be best described as a Piping Hot Mess....this book's topic bites off not only more than Solomon himself can chew, but more than that guy who's won the Nathan's Famous Forth of July hotdog-eating contest for the past six years running could chew, in all six years. Read the rest of this review at my blog. This book can be best described as a Piping Hot Mess....this book's topic bites off not only more than Solomon himself can chew, but more than that guy who's won the Nathan's Famous Forth of July hotdog-eating contest for the past six years running could chew, in all six years. Read the rest of this review at my blog.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book should be called Far From the Truth. I started highlighting passages on page 8 of my Nook. Since I'm a freelance journalist, I wrote an op-ed about my issues with the book: My op-ed Because of the gross inaccuracies in the Deaf chapter, I was leery about the other chapters, so the whole book was kind of ruined for me. There is ripe fodder for discussion - for many reasons. I did enjoy the families' stories, and learned some things about other disabilities. I didn't know, for example, abo This book should be called Far From the Truth. I started highlighting passages on page 8 of my Nook. Since I'm a freelance journalist, I wrote an op-ed about my issues with the book: My op-ed Because of the gross inaccuracies in the Deaf chapter, I was leery about the other chapters, so the whole book was kind of ruined for me. There is ripe fodder for discussion - for many reasons. I did enjoy the families' stories, and learned some things about other disabilities. I didn't know, for example, about the controversy surrounding limb lengthening. And the whole vertical vs horizontal identity concept is interesting. I'd give this one star because, frankly, I get pissed off when talking about this book and its potentially negative ramifications. But I have to give Solomon credit for opening the conversation about horizontal identities.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (author of the also excellent work, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) is a lengthy (yet precise) examination of what Solomon calls "horizontal" identity: the identity that a child has that is markedly different from that of his or her parents (which Solomon calls vertical identity). There are many ways in which this happens. Solomon examines a variety of "differences" children may have: autism, Down Synd Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon (author of the also excellent work, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) is a lengthy (yet precise) examination of what Solomon calls "horizontal" identity: the identity that a child has that is markedly different from that of his or her parents (which Solomon calls vertical identity). There are many ways in which this happens. Solomon examines a variety of "differences" children may have: autism, Down Syndrome, multiple disabilities, deafness, transgender children, children who are prodigiously gifted, even children who are criminals. He concludes his work by sharing about his own journey to parenthood, including the ways that researching this text affected his views of parenthood, relationships, and love. The book is profoundly moving and endlessly interesting. The stories are engaging: parents and children (when possible) share their experiences around difference and identity as well as the ways in which they are also ordinary families, human beings struggling as everyone does to make sense of their lives and to cherish their loved ones. Some of the stories reveals where family fails to come to terms with difference but more often, even when facing children with severe disabilities, what is revealed is love, the ability of many ordinary people to deal with extraordinary challenges. I was abashed by many of the families, unsure if I could face the challenges they dealt with as well as they do. It did seem that most of the focus (though not all) was on families who had the financial means to help accommodate their children's needs. These families were educated and articulate and often inspirational. But Solomon tries to include some representation from other levels of economic status, particularly in his very moving chapter on transgender children. Although the book is long, it feels as though every word is necessary. The subject is big-bigger even than this book can completely cover. But part of the power of the work is the diversity of differences Solomon examines and his willingness to participate emotionally in the project. Ultimately, the book demonstrates how we are all enriched by diversity, even that which is challenging to our views of what it means to be human in a complex world. I strongly recommend this book to everyone. It is an education in humanity.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Judie

    When it comes to having children, Andrew Solomon doesn’t believe in reproduction. He says the word implies making a copy of something. He does believe in production, recognizing that every child is a new, different, individual person. He acknowledges that children do share some traits with their parents, which he calls vertical identity. They may have some traits different from their families but shared by peers. These he calls horizontal identity. He is gay. His parents are straight. Gay is a h When it comes to having children, Andrew Solomon doesn’t believe in reproduction. He says the word implies making a copy of something. He does believe in production, recognizing that every child is a new, different, individual person. He acknowledges that children do share some traits with their parents, which he calls vertical identity. They may have some traits different from their families but shared by peers. These he calls horizontal identity. He is gay. His parents are straight. Gay is a horizontal identity. In FAR FROM THE TREE, he interviews people who have a child in a horizontal identity. The categories are deaf, dwarf, Down’s Syndrom, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disability, prodigies, children conceived through rape, crime, and transgender. In each chapter, he interviews both the families as well as individuals in the category and provides information about causes and treatment. Many of these theories have changed over the years. Children who don’t resemble their parents are more likely to be abused. He states. “Prehistoric societies were cruel to those who were different, but did not segregate them; their care was the responsibility of their families. Post-industrial societies created benevolent institutions for the disables, who were often whisked away at the first sign of anomaly.” Solomon compares, in a nonjudgmental way, not only families with children having the same condition, he contrasts the way different conditions affect both the child and the family. For example, deaf children can live in families where one or both parents and other family members are also deaf. He discusses the benefits of oral speech versus sign language, the pros and cons of cochlear implants, and whether mainstreaming the children or having them with other deaf children is more beneficial to the child. Should they live at home or with peers? He mentions many groups do find local communities of peers. Some, for example dwarfs, are much more isolated and asks what difference that makes. He points out the advantage of on-line communities to help children who are different develop contact with peers. When discussing dwarfs, he writes about providing surgery to help the child grow taller and in the case of children with Down’s Syndrome, the use of tests to determine whether a fetus has DS and whether or not the fetus should be aborted. In all these cases, he raises the question of if these conditions are eliminated or ameliorated, what message does it give to a person who is living with condition? Should severely disabled children be kept alive by medical means? Are children with disabilities less valuable than other members of society? He asks who has the problem, the child or society and quotes British academic Michael Oliver who wrote “Disability has nothing to do with the body; it is a consequence of social oppression.” Children who don’t resemble their parents are more likely to be abused. He asks if the child should adjust to the world or if the world should adjust to the child. He mentions many groups do find local communities of peers. Some, for example dwarfs, are much more isolated and asks what difference that makes. He quotes Simon Baron-Cohen:”Autism is both a disability and a difference. We need to find ways of alleviating the disability while respecting and valuing the difference.” A deaf child will develop other senses to compensate for the loss of hearing. He points out positive aspects of some conditions, e.g., DS children are usually very sweet and trusting. He presents many viewpoints, both medical and via family interviews. This results in some contradictions such as why autism is more common now. The timing of the onset of the condition creates different experiences. A child with Down’s Syndrome is often identified at birth. Schizophrenia usually doesn’t develop until the mid to late teens. The parent and child are faced with dealing with a major change for which they are usually unprepared. Transgender children may know before they start school that they are the wrong gender. Should the parent support a son’s request to wear dresses to school? Should they allow surgery before the child reaches puberty to keep the child from developing the characteristics of their current body? While most conditions are caused in the child, in the case of children who are conceived via rape, it is the mother who provides the difference. Children who commit crimes are often removed from their homes and institutionalized. Whether the child receives treatment or punishment is largely decided by the community-at-large as it opts for retribution or prevention. Many communities blame the parents. Parents who don’t want to label their children may find the child is not able to receive services unless they are labeled. While most people don’t think of prodigies as a problem, the way the child is raised can have a profound effect on the family. Like other families with a horizontal identity child, the child may receive more or less attention than his siblings. Solomon focuses on musical prodigies and has examples of parents pushing their children as a way to fame and fortune as well as letting the children determine what they want to do with their gift. He asks what do parents need from their children and how can a horizontal identity child fill that niche. At the end of the book, he observes that in almost all cases, if the parent of a horizontal identify child could choose, they would pick their own child. FAR FROM THE TREE Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is more than 700 pages, plus extensive notes, bibliography, and index. I think it could have been at least 100 pages shorter without losing its point. It raised a lot of issues I had never thought about previously and provided a lot of information to consider. I would recommend it to all readers who have ever met someone who is different from themselves.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    When i picked up this massive book, I thought it would take me weeks maybe months to finish, as I'd planned to dip into it now and then between other books with more linear structure. And now I find myself 3 days later having not been able to put it down. Reading in one stretch -- as one chapter lead to another and the histories brought these cases to life. One reason is Andrew Solomon's obvious empathy for his subjects. Having grown up knowing he was gay, Solomon shared a sense of feeling margi When i picked up this massive book, I thought it would take me weeks maybe months to finish, as I'd planned to dip into it now and then between other books with more linear structure. And now I find myself 3 days later having not been able to put it down. Reading in one stretch -- as one chapter lead to another and the histories brought these cases to life. One reason is Andrew Solomon's obvious empathy for his subjects. Having grown up knowing he was gay, Solomon shared a sense of feeling marginalized from an early age. He spent ten years researching and getting to know the families of special children, establishing relationships that in some cases spanned that entire time. This book is beautifully written in clear prose, and even the more technical material is clear for the lay reader. Definitely worth the time, worth the effort.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    One of the best books I've ever read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    This book was a real journey for me. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did, I have to admit. I thought that it was going to be pretty dry and terse, but actually it's filled with stories of love and tragedy. It's one of the most thorough looks at a whole variety of conditions, illnesses, disabilities and challenges. The research behind this is thorough and profound. It's also written in a lyrical but scientific way. Even someone who knows next to nothing about these condi This book was a real journey for me. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did, I have to admit. I thought that it was going to be pretty dry and terse, but actually it's filled with stories of love and tragedy. It's one of the most thorough looks at a whole variety of conditions, illnesses, disabilities and challenges. The research behind this is thorough and profound. It's also written in a lyrical but scientific way. Even someone who knows next to nothing about these conditions is probably going to find this a very fascinating and eye-opening read. I am therefore admitting that this book surprised and excited me throughout, and I did so much google-ing and research myself to join in with the discovery of these topics and the personal stories. As I went through this book I made notes and so I am going to probably just include those below. I will note that I audio-booked this one and I would certainly recommend the audio version as the author narrates the book. 2.56% "This is depressing, brutal and yet so far it's a whole lot more compelling than I expected. I'm liking it even though it's crazy long." 5.12% "'Wrongful Life' - this addresses the idea of what life is worth living. How is this a real thing? It sounds insane to me, but it does make sense that this some may feel this way." 5.64% "Deaf culture is up first as the topic. I have a personal interest in this one as I have constantly had operations to stop deafness myself, so far, I am highly interested." 5.74% "It's crazy how much language you take in between birth and 6-months. Now imagine being deaf and not being able to learn any language as your family are forcing you to conform to 'normal' spoken languages..." 7.68% "Really interesting snippets of history are interwoven with specific examples of people who have experienced vastly different forms of deafness and schooling and life." 16.0% "Absolutely loved the whole of Chapter 2. It was all about Deafness, Deaf culture, how parents and children have tackled Deafness, ASL, hearing, speech-therapy and much more. Personally, as someone who has a strong interest in Deaf culture (I may well have been deaf without lots of operations over my life) it was a fascinating, real, and very informative insight. I even felt emotional at times! Great! Dwarfism next..." 23.0% "Finished up chapter 3 which was about Dwarfism and I have to admit it was an eye-opener. Unlike the first chapter about Deafness where I felt some kinship, this one was a lot more foreign to me personally and really made me think about re-evaluating the stereotypes that surround fairy tale Dwarfs and the reality of living life as a Little Person. There's a theme of isolation and community throughout each group." 31.0% "Finished the section on Downs Syndrome and it again was truly eye opening as the the way some people have to deal with their children's conditions, and the way that they're looked down on by so many health professionals. I feel like again this is an area where I'm lacking in knowledge and experience, but I do hope after reading this I now have more empathy for the trials families and people with DS face. Autism next." 41.0% "Just finished up the Autism section and again it was really interesting to learn more about the extreme version of Autism and just how little we still know about the condition and how to treat it or what causes it. I do think that there are some deeply disturbing cases details here of family killings due to stress of raising autistic children, but the sentencing being light is troubling. On to schizophrenia..." 50.0% "Psychosis is definitely a scary one. Hard to identify between reality and delusion..." 57.0% "Finished up Psychosis and children with sever physical disabilities. Both again very interesting chapters and the examples shows were always the right blend of informative and heartfelt. Seeing the different options families may take is at times shocking e.g. giving up your child or performing drastic surgeries (Ashley X Treatment), but I have a lot of sympathy + understanding for the situation of these families too!" 64.0% "Gifted and Prodigy children. Definitely a vastly different lifestyle, but also some big similarities to the other conditions." 72.0% "Prodigy section was very interesting if very different and more privileged than some of the other situations. Now on to children conceived through rape. It's a controversial and thought subject, but I'm very intrigued by its inclusion." 77.0% "Through the section on Rape and children who are the product of it. This was interesting as it touched on some of the same issues I'm currently reading about in The Morning They Came For Us. Now on to 'crime'..." 85.0% "Finished the section on Crime, finding out about some of the terrible things kids have done, from rape of siblings through to full-on school massacres is horrific, but seeing how the families have all dealt differently and the things that may have led to these crimes is also insightful. I have to admit this book is one where I am constantly finding things out and google-ing to learn more. Now on to transgender...." 85.0% "Transgender people frequently understand that they aren't of their prenatal gender very early on and the frustration and worry over the inherent gender roles we place on kids can really affect their lives." 96.0% "Transgender section was interesting again but less so than some of the others as I feel like I already knew a lot of this one from having a friend who was transitioning through college. Think we may be down to the final chapter and summary here...called Father and it deals with the author's reasons for writing the book and researching parenting and families." Overall I would hugely recommend this even though I do think the beginning is a little bit slow. I found myself moved, horrified, happy, awed and inspired by the stories of these families and the lives they have crafted. Many of the people who give their personal accounts are dealing wth all sorts of outside and inside stresses, this can really affect the people in their family and around them, and yet many are hugely positive. The other side is that Solomon doesn't shy away from the tricky troubles that challenge these families, rather he addresses these too and shows why people get to hard decisions and controversial methods. I ended up giving this 5*s because part of this were so excellent and as a whole it really surprised me and I wanted to keep reading. It's a long, long book, but so very relevant and I think it would be worth many more people reading it in order to make the world a more understanding and welcoming place.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lambert

    It took me a fairly long time to read this book. Not because it is dry, but because it made me stop and reflect not only on my life, but on those around me. This has to be the kindest book I have read in a long time. Mr. Solomon is so generous and open with everyone he interviews. He also gives of himself to those same people. Many are in very distressing situations, others have coped with awful situations and done so spectacularly, The author is not at all shy to point out what he learned from It took me a fairly long time to read this book. Not because it is dry, but because it made me stop and reflect not only on my life, but on those around me. This has to be the kindest book I have read in a long time. Mr. Solomon is so generous and open with everyone he interviews. He also gives of himself to those same people. Many are in very distressing situations, others have coped with awful situations and done so spectacularly, The author is not at all shy to point out what he learned from them. I only wish that some of the textbooks I used in medical school could have been written so engagingly to contain so much information. While reading this book the data regarding the DNA analysis of certain different mental disorders sharing the same genetic aberrations was released. This made understanding this book so much more straight forward. Reading about the families, one almost had to suspect something like that from the case histories and family histories.The book is extraordinarily well written, very approachable, and in terms of typographical or grammatical errors perfect. It has been proofed to be that way. If you are interested in thinking about who is really normal or abnormal, read this. If you have a relative or close friend with developmental disorders or mental health issues, then this book will help you.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex Templeton

    This week, a few days after I finished reading it, I found out that this book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. All I can say in response to this is, duh. I imagine this book will be one of the best works of nonfiction I read this year, if not for the next few years. Solomon writes about parents raising children very different than they are, children with what he terms "horizontal" identities. His chapters discuss schizophrenia, autism, Down Syndrome, criminality, transg This week, a few days after I finished reading it, I found out that this book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. All I can say in response to this is, duh. I imagine this book will be one of the best works of nonfiction I read this year, if not for the next few years. Solomon writes about parents raising children very different than they are, children with what he terms "horizontal" identities. His chapters discuss schizophrenia, autism, Down Syndrome, criminality, transgenderism, severe disability, deafness, children of rape, and one or two other categories I'm not remembering at the moment. Tying them all together is the conflict amongst many between valuing the child's condition as an identity to be celebrated or as a disease to be eradicated. Solomon, a gay man, comes to the subject from a very personal place, and his writing is extraordinary in its compassion and even-handedness. Really, this is one of the most human books I've ever read, in that it makes me feel more connected with more communities of my shared humans. I recommend it most highly.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mitsy

    YES! Yes! YES! I WON this Andrew Solomon Book! :) Oh, wow! If you haven't heard of this book, read the summary and, most likely, you'll want to win/read it, too! If you love learning as I do, Far From The Tree is for you. I'm shocked and in awe that I WON this! Yes. There is a lot of information to be learned in this book. At times, Andrew Solomon writes pages and pages of his thoughts mixed with facts. While I may not agree with him on everything, I thoroughly enjoyed learning so much I never kn YES! Yes! YES! I WON this Andrew Solomon Book! :) Oh, wow! If you haven't heard of this book, read the summary and, most likely, you'll want to win/read it, too! If you love learning as I do, Far From The Tree is for you. I'm shocked and in awe that I WON this! Yes. There is a lot of information to be learned in this book. At times, Andrew Solomon writes pages and pages of his thoughts mixed with facts. While I may not agree with him on everything, I thoroughly enjoyed learning so much I never knew before. Not just about facts, but about myself. His writing caused me to form my own opinions, based on fact, and still respect his. It was so much fun! It would take days to write all I learned and I could learn even more by reading it again. This is like a reference book and I LOVE IT. I am even more happy I won it and will keep it forever. Buy this - and never as an e-book - and keep it in a safe place so as not to ruin it. Have fun reading, learning and forming your own opinions! :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    Here's a trailer for the book: http://www.upworthy.com/news-flash-th... What a great book. Solomon looks at families, which usually have vertical identities (shared family traits), where children have horizontal identities (characteristics they share with people outside of their families). Being a prodigy or schizophrenic or born with Down syndrome usually gives children an identity they do not share with their parents. It can be bewildering, heartbreaking, and sometimes richly rewarding for those Here's a trailer for the book: http://www.upworthy.com/news-flash-th... What a great book. Solomon looks at families, which usually have vertical identities (shared family traits), where children have horizontal identities (characteristics they share with people outside of their families). Being a prodigy or schizophrenic or born with Down syndrome usually gives children an identity they do not share with their parents. It can be bewildering, heartbreaking, and sometimes richly rewarding for those parents. Solomon did research and interviews for this book over the course of a decade. His depth of understanding of his subjects shows. His study is at once caring, understanding, and academically informed. He neither sugarcoats nor dismisses the struggles these families face, and one can often feel the respect he grows to feel for his subjects. Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is bookended by Solomon's personal stories; growing up dyslexic and gay, and deciding to become a dad. He reflects meaningfully on his personal journey throughout the book, but does not make it a book about himself. I appreciated the extent to which he was able to share himself without turning the focus to his own story. One of my favorite plugs on the back of the book is from Siddhartha Mukherjee: "This is one of the most extraordinary books I have read in recent times - brave, compassionate, and astonishingly humane. Solomon approaches one of the oldest questions - how much are we defined by nature versus nurture? - and crafts from it a gripping narrative. Through his stories, told with such masterful delicacy and lucidity, we learn how different we all are, and how achingly similar." I highly recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Kramer

    I want to keep this short. For one thing, it's a long book, and you should spend your precious reading time on the book and not on my review of it. It's a huge book, and a great one, a book of unbearable sadness that provides a tool for how to deal with it. Mr. Solomon had to write this book, and I felt that on every page, with every tale, with every family he met, a world of people who discovered through their extraordinary children (autistic, gifted, transgender, criminal) their own extraordinar I want to keep this short. For one thing, it's a long book, and you should spend your precious reading time on the book and not on my review of it. It's a huge book, and a great one, a book of unbearable sadness that provides a tool for how to deal with it. Mr. Solomon had to write this book, and I felt that on every page, with every tale, with every family he met, a world of people who discovered through their extraordinary children (autistic, gifted, transgender, criminal) their own extraordinary capacity for resiliency and deep, abiding love. I can think of many books I've loved, or admired; many books I wished I could have written myself. But I can think of only a few that have changed my life, and made me see things differently. FAR FROM THE TREE is one of them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    I did not read every word of this huge book, but I read sections and enough of the whole to get the gist of his focus. Solomon is inclusive in his view of the wide variety of human development and manifestation, and his tone must be incredibly reassuring to parents with children that are different from their more mainstream brethren, to say nothing of persons who themselves manifest special needs. Solomon is remarkably fluent for someone who struggled with dyslexia in his childhood. One wonders I did not read every word of this huge book, but I read sections and enough of the whole to get the gist of his focus. Solomon is inclusive in his view of the wide variety of human development and manifestation, and his tone must be incredibly reassuring to parents with children that are different from their more mainstream brethren, to say nothing of persons who themselves manifest special needs. Solomon is remarkably fluent for someone who struggled with dyslexia in his childhood. One wonders if he dictated this book, for he writes so easily, warmly (passionately), and clearly that a reader is drawn in and loses oneself in his many histories of persons or families dealing with exceptionalism of all types. Solomon is a homosexual and so states at the outset of this book. "Long after childhood, I clung to childish things as a dam against sexuality. This willful immaturity was overlaid with an affected Victorian prudery, aimed not at masking but obliterating desire." That he includes homosexuality with what others might call "diseases" of the mind or body is a curious thing. In any case, he explains his position as one of "other," and as one reads, he explains that the "other" in those disabled in some way makes him a part of that larger group. He in no way suggests otherness is aberrant. In fact, he recommends a celebration of differentness. There are a couple of passages that I found, in Solomon's words, "radicalizing" and, to show you a small measure of the pleasures in store in this book, I quote some of them for you here."Then a friend has a daughter who was a dwarf. She wondered whether she should bring up her daughter to consider herself just like everyone else, only shorter; whether she should make sure her daughter had dwarf role models; or whether she should investigate surgical limb-lengthening. As she narrated her bafflement, I saw a familiar pattern. I had been startled to note my common ground with the Deaf, and now I was identifying with a dwarf; I wondered who else was out there waiting to join our gladsome throng. I thought that if gayness, and identity, could grow out of homosexuality, an illness, and Deafness, an identity, could grow out of deafness, an illness, and if dwarfism as an identity could emerge from an apparent disability, then there must be many other categories in this awkward interstitial territory. It was a radicalizing insight. Having always imagined myself in a fairly slim minority, I suddenly saw that I was in a vast company. Difference unites us. While each of these experiences can isolate those who are affected, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles connect them profoundly. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.""Anomalous bodies are usually more frightening to people who witness them than to people who have them, yet parents rush to normalize physical exceptionalism, often at great psychic cost to themselves and their children. Labeling a child's mind as diseased--whether with autism, intellectual disabilities or transgenderism--may reflect the discomfort that mind gives parents more than any discomfort it causes their child. Much gets corrected that might better have been left alone."[on schizophrenia] "In 2011, I was privy to a conversation between a biotech executive and James Watson, the Nobel Laureate who, with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA, and who has a son with schizophrenia. The executive opined that schizophrenia research was diffuse and chaotic; he had a grand scheme for getting everyone to collaborate, so that people could each benefit from the knowledge of others. He had hoped he could inspire a breakthrough if he raised $400 milllion to address the problem. Watson said, 'We're nowhere near the stage where collaboration is useful. We don't know enough; there's nothing anyone has figured out for anyone else to build on. We need an insight, not a refinement. If I had your four hundred million dollars, I'd find a hundred bright young scientists and give them each four million. If I chose right, one of them would come up with something.'"[on prodigy] "If Zhenya plays the piano with the fluidity with which I talk, he talks with the awkwardness with which I play the piano. His profound intelligence and complex thoughts are indicated but not expressed by conversation...I had been toying with the idea of music as a first language before I put it to Zhenya about a year after we met. I wanted to know something about the structure of a Rachmaninoff cadenza. 'This one?' asked Zhenya, and played six bars. On the tape of our meeting, the emotional transition is more suprising than the shift from speech to music: the notes contain all the feeling absent from the words...A yearning to be understood--the primary beauty of Zhenya's playing--distinguishes this from technical facility...I felt for the first time that we were in full conversation; it was as intimate as a confidence or an embrace."Whatever normality Solomon lacks, one must inevitably conclude after glancing through this book that he is exceptional also in speech. We have long known through our history that those with the "gift of tongues" have an outsized impact upon the masses. Solomon has this gift. Solomon demonstrates his gift in this book to begin people thinking in a new way on issues of disability and differentness, even homosexuality and transgenderism. Ignore him and what he has to say at your peril, for this man has sway. In the end, there are 250+ pages of notes in this book, so the text is only six hundred-some pages. It is absorbing to read, and so thoughtful in addressing pressing issues of differentness, one feels that some breakthroughs in our understanding of "disability" is imminent. Rather than be the last to know, you may wish to take a stroll though the thinking that may change the way we live our lives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    This is an absolutely riveting book, which I really didn't like. The entirety of my problems with it cannot be put into one single review - I'm afraid they may require a book all of their own, with a central thesis and an equivalent amount of research. So I am going to put down some key points of disagreement, and leave it at that. 1. Structure: The book's chapters are absolutely fascinating, unfortunately, they often - almost always - do not focus on the central topic of the book. They describe This is an absolutely riveting book, which I really didn't like. The entirety of my problems with it cannot be put into one single review - I'm afraid they may require a book all of their own, with a central thesis and an equivalent amount of research. So I am going to put down some key points of disagreement, and leave it at that. 1. Structure: The book's chapters are absolutely fascinating, unfortunately, they often - almost always - do not focus on the central topic of the book. They describe a condition and its political ramifications, bring family stories, but mostly focus on the particular group of the chapter's interest as a group, whereas I would have wanted to see not so much the political and social history of the groups, as how parents identify with children - and children identify with their parents. I felt the book meandered about that way. 2. I feel the author confused three different concepts, or psychological states, or what will you. He could not, or did not want to, separate between identity, the sense of self, and belonging and commonality, the sense of community. Those two )or three) things sometimes go together, but oftentimes are completely different. One can feel acceptance and belonging in a group that does not construe a part of his or her identity. Conversely, identity can stem from a source where one feels no belonging whatsoever. As an example, as a Russian expat who left very young, I feel no belonging in Russia. However, no one would argue that "being a Russian expat" constitutes a good part of my identity. 3. There is far too much emphasis on not being lonely. Perhaps it's the cultural milieu, but the author seems to espouse a theory where it is most important for a person to feel involved and engaged in a group of similar likes. That a) one cannot be involved and engaged in a group of people dissimilar from him or herself, and that b) if one is lonely, it's the worst place to be in. Man being a social animal and all, loneliness can be problematic, but it has its own advantages, and it is not in my opinion as bad as complete isolation from the world. It is also possible to be involved and feel a sense of community with people very dissimilar from you, ones whose identity lacks the part yours does have, or has parts you don't. 4. I feel the author often is inconsistent, espousing different solutions or approaches for analogous problems. Whereas I often feel that what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and the reverse. If surgery for body alteration is bad in one place, one would assume that it would be bad also in another place, unless the difference in circumstances is explicitly and thoroughly explained. This is actually a bonk I foresee myself recommending often, if only because it is sufficiently controversial for me to want to hear other people's opinions about it. I will also say that the author does make good points, generally when he is not in fact trying to make a point. Most of the best food for thought to be found in this book came as casual remarks in the middle of other material. Beware, however, of political diatribes. The author has something of a chip on his shoulder, and it shows.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This book looks at what the author calls "horizontal identities", such as deafness, being gay, being autistic, etc. He has interviewed the families that deal with these challenges and, when he can, the people who have them. The stories are interesting and he makes some important points. However, I think he goes on way too long with his own ruminations. I lost patience with Mr. Solomon several times, but I'm still glad I read it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    This is an achingly beautiful, heart opening, eye opening read. The author is brave, original, irreverent, sensitive and unflinching. I listened to the book on my (2+ hour) Los Angeles rush hour commute. The book is so good it has made me relish the time. No small claim. The (40+ hour) Audio book is narrated by the author, and the spirit (a word I rarely if ever use) of his words shines through the beautiful and precise nonfiction prose, lending the book an entirely other, deeply felt dimension. This is an achingly beautiful, heart opening, eye opening read. The author is brave, original, irreverent, sensitive and unflinching. I listened to the book on my (2+ hour) Los Angeles rush hour commute. The book is so good it has made me relish the time. No small claim. The (40+ hour) Audio book is narrated by the author, and the spirit (a word I rarely if ever use) of his words shines through the beautiful and precise nonfiction prose, lending the book an entirely other, deeply felt dimension. Rich and meaningful and brilliant. This book moved me. It made my think and rethink and rethink my opinions, laugh out loud, flat out cry in despair, wince in shame, howl at the indignity of it all and weep in the presence of such love, heart and sensitivity. Sometimes all at the same time. In a large book, full of profundities, perhaps the single most impactful of them (and perhaps the one that most aptly summarizes the book) is the notion (accredited to Talmudic theology) that god (another word I rarely if ever use) occurs in dialog. God occurs in dialog. God is between people. The divine occurs in the act of caring service. I put this on my short list of great books. Giving this book a five star rating feels banal and trite. Akin to "liking" Sistine Chappell on Facebook. It took Andrew Solomon 10 years to write this book. He traveled the globe. He interviewed hundreds of people about intensely painful and person subjects. Perhaps the most painful and personal subjects people experience. After listening to him read this amazing work, I feel like he's taken residence in my heart and mind. Sitting here and popping out a ten minute review and a five star rating feels really week. That being said.......... This is a great book and Andrew Solomon is an amazing writer, gifted intellectual and a profoundly insightful and deeply soulful humanist.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Viridian5

    I finally had to give up on Andrew Solomen's Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity because parts of it kept making me angry. When I picked up the book I thought it'd be a thoughtful piece on people different from the parents--like deaf children with hearing parents--and how they have to find what he calls "horizontal" identity and to some extent support from people like them outside their family. I didn't know it would have such a strong agenda about it, an agenda Sol I finally had to give up on Andrew Solomen's Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity because parts of it kept making me angry. When I picked up the book I thought it'd be a thoughtful piece on people different from the parents--like deaf children with hearing parents--and how they have to find what he calls "horizontal" identity and to some extent support from people like them outside their family. I didn't know it would have such a strong agenda about it, an agenda Solomen follows through with no matter what the facts he just relayed tell the readers. I just wanted to read about these groupings without having somebody else's judgment of how I should think and what group I belong to constantly shoved in my face. Ironically, that's exactly the kind of thing a lot of this book is arguing against. This agenda is most pervasive and non-stop in the introduction. Solomen's eternal position, only occasionally and lightly diluted, is that all difference is automatically better for people and society. Always. I agree that disability desperately needs to be destigmatized but his position that parents should accept and encourage every natural aspect of their offspring, even a lot of the very harrowing self- and family member-harming behaviors, can be hard to accept, especially since it's difficult to tell from later parts of the book how much support and medical intervention and what kind of education he thinks is improving the offspring's life and what's warping them out of their natural condition. One of what he calls "horizontal" groupings is the disabled and his thing is that the disabled have their own culture and shouldn't be selected out and told they're not normal. I can understand some of the reasoning behind this, but "the disabled" is too large a grouping and I do not identify with people who would think my disability, Chiari I malformation, is a valuable condition with an important culture to be respected. I don't want another person to be born in this world who suffers from Chiari the way I and too many other people do, including young children. If I could fix myself and every person in pain on my Chiari support groups, I would want to do so. And it's not because society oppresses me into thinking my condition is abnormal, it's because nobody should have to go through the kind of intensive, risky surgeries and procedures full-flare Chiarians have to go through or live with the daily pain and various debilitating physical ailments. This kind of life shouldn't be considered normal. Don't count me in your group! Don't parse what's "normal" physically for humans based on how lifespans were decades ago since I would've died young, slow and in agony and wasting away but undiagnosed, a few decades earlier. I'm neuroatypical but not like someone with some form of autism, which gives me different concerns and problems than them, and that's a smaller group than "the disabled." Every time I read myself lumped in with his "the disabled" it's like biting down on tin foil. Another problem is that he makes every condition directly analogous to him being gay. Parents opting not to carry a child who will have a lifelong painful and debilitating condition is not the same as opting not to carry a baby they find out will be gay. It's not even close! And he ropes in a lot of different conditions into being analogous to being gay: people with a number of physical and mental health differences, children of rape, children who become criminals.... Once again, he makes general blanket assumptions about a huge number of people. I made it through his sections on the deaf, dwarfs, autism, and part of schizophrenia. The section on the deaf was very interesting, though I would like to have seen more about different parts of the brain develop for language based on whether it's a visual or verbal language. The fights over who's deaf "enough" in the community, though.... In the dwarf section he gives tiny mentions of the many debilitating physical problems some dwarfs have due to their structure. He says that most of them wouldn't mind staying short but would like to get rid of the physical pain but since they can't, whatevs, man. Beautiful diversity! The section on Down syndrome is relentlessly sunny, with very little time given to the negatives of the condition that Solomen can't blame on society. Down syndrome people are so sweet-natured, and they make their parents and siblings better, more moral, more outgoing, and more sympathetic people. Everybody wins! (If a family member told me that my disability made him/her a better person, I'd punch said person. Glad you found personal benefits in my suffering.) Meanwhile, my roommate knows a single mother with Down syndrome son who has no family support and is totally failing to handle it well. He's learned from her that tantrums get him what he want and he's super aggressive, having been suspended from his special school a few times for throwing furniture at other, usually smaller, students, something that's getting worse as the testosterone that comes with his age is kicking in. The sections on autism and schizophrenia are more harrowing, with the stories talking about people harming themselves and assaulting family members, smearing their own feces and blood around, going on rampages, and many needing to live with family or in a group home for the rest of their lives, and parents and family members having depression and mental breakdowns from having to deal with the system to get the massive help in education and medical care necessary for autism and carefully watch a child 24/7 to make sure they're not destroying themselves, the house, or another person. During one instance of a watcher looking away, an autistic child started strangling her sister. But all this is great too! Somehow. And all these experiences are directly comparable to each other! I can't get too far behind the idea that we should let everyone go off their meds if they wish because I live in a city, which gives me experience with mentally ill walking the streets doing what they wish, unmedicated, as their "natural" selves. (Deinstitutionalization is not the greatest.) I've gotten screamed at out of nowhere, including a woman who came up on me yelling that I better stop looking at her but I managed to talk her down enough to get away. One homeless man who didn't like that my brother wouldn't give him money no matter how threatening he got took advantage of us going away from my car to rip my car's diver's side sideview mirror off and tried but failed to yank my car's fuel door open to mess with my gas tank. New Yorkers know to be somewhat cautious while interacting with dickish strangers because they can be armed and dangerous. Also, a lot of people have been pushed to their death in front of subway trains by random strangers. This book is mostly made up of anecdotes, so mine should be worth something too. I didn't even get to the child of rape section, which better not be as directly compared to everything else here, including homosexuality, since the author can't stop bringing that in. I was getting too upset so I gave up at page 345 because I couldn't make it to 900-something.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    this book is like 900 pages long, & i was reading it in dribs & drabs in between caring for a newborn baby, so it seriously took me three months to read the whole thing. if you're reading this review, you are probably already familiar with the concept of the book: it's all about horizontal identities--children that differ from their parents in some meaningful way. there are chapters devoted to children with down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, & dwarfism, transgender kids, children that commit this book is like 900 pages long, & i was reading it in dribs & drabs in between caring for a newborn baby, so it seriously took me three months to read the whole thing. if you're reading this review, you are probably already familiar with the concept of the book: it's all about horizontal identities--children that differ from their parents in some meaningful way. there are chapters devoted to children with down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, & dwarfism, transgender kids, children that commit crimes, children conceived in rape, prodigies, etc. explanations regarding genetics, oppression, politics, treatment, & psychology are interspersed with case reports on real families grappling with whatever issue at hand--& it seems that no two families approach their situations in quite the same way, even if the are experiencing similar issues. it's thought-provoking & eye-opening to read about how different parents tackle the same problems, & how different children relate to their unique difficulties & differences. i really enjoyed this book--obviously, or i wouldn't have plowed on with it for hundreds & hundreds of pages. it's intellectually rigorous enough to avoid descending into what could be very treacly territory, but the sharing of real people's stories helps to keep things engaging--even compelling. my one quibble was with the author's tendency to occasionally compare his interview subjects with his own experience of being gay. it seems to me that in this day & age, being gay doesn't really hold a candle to the problems some of these people have experienced. particularly for a professional, well-educated, well off middle aged gay man with family support, a partner, & children. but solomon is from a different generation than i am & things have moved very quickly for gay rights...plus i inhabit a subcultural world where being gay just isn't a big deal at all, so my perception is skewed even more. but that's seriously a really minor complaint in the face of a very interesting, well-written book. food for thought, for sure--particularly for a parent. i am just grateful i read this after my daughter was already born. some of the information about birth defects & birth injuries was way more than i would have been able to deal with while i was still pregnant.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    I am not a parent. But I have been a child. I have always been an oddball. The girl who wouldn't back down. When my grandmother told me that I had to help her in the kitchen and I asked her why all my cousins could go out and play, she told me because I was "the girl". I dress girly, play the piano and have excellent manners, often my mother has been told, like a good girl everyone expects me to be. That is all me, these things were not forced on me. But I am more. I have always done better than I am not a parent. But I have been a child. I have always been an oddball. The girl who wouldn't back down. When my grandmother told me that I had to help her in the kitchen and I asked her why all my cousins could go out and play, she told me because I was "the girl". I dress girly, play the piano and have excellent manners, often my mother has been told, like a good girl everyone expects me to be. That is all me, these things were not forced on me. But I am more. I have always done better than my cousins, who incidentally are all male. And as a child I never understood, why is it ok for my male cousins to not know how to make an egg but I had to learn? Why does no one care if I excel at anything except my ability to keep my room tidy and help with the house chores? My dear grandmother, bless her soul, told me: "When you get married, this will be important." My beloved mother, who has enormous patience with me and loves me, still wonders to this day about why I am different from other people's daughters. I was just a little "odd", a little "out of the box". I could even pretend to be "normal", keeping my mouth shut and faking a good little girl. And I struggled with it. I have a little experience with being different. And I speak from experience that it is not easy for a child. Imagine that experience multiplifed by 1000 times, for a child who really stands out, being a prodigy, having Downs Syndrome, being over-active, being gay, wanting to be a girl but born a boy, my heart aches just thinking about what they must go through in life. Unbearable pains, I say, unbearable. This is not a book for parenting skills. Yes it is especially important for parents to know, their children deserve to be loved, no matter what. But I feel that this is a book about being human, aboug having compassions, about self-acceptance, and about love. It matters not whether we are a certain way. It matters only, that it is my way, and I will go my way with pride and humbleness, knowing that I am true to myself and I need not to apologize to anyone, for not fulfilling their expectations.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Andrew Solomon has written an epic book about families who have children who are "different": gay, deaf, dwarfs, down syndrome, autistic, schizophrenic, disabled, prodigies, criminals, transgender, and the product of rape. It might seem this is a grim topic for a huge (700 pages) book, but it is not. It is about coping, learning, triumphing...in most cases. There seems to be no way to celebrate the life of a criminal...and Solomon interviews one of the families of the Columbine shooters...but th Andrew Solomon has written an epic book about families who have children who are "different": gay, deaf, dwarfs, down syndrome, autistic, schizophrenic, disabled, prodigies, criminals, transgender, and the product of rape. It might seem this is a grim topic for a huge (700 pages) book, but it is not. It is about coping, learning, triumphing...in most cases. There seems to be no way to celebrate the life of a criminal...and Solomon interviews one of the families of the Columbine shooters...but there is always something to be learned by the living. This is a book about people and how we are all different. As I read it, I thought of the ways in which all my "normal" friends are different from one another and myself. Each of us falls within a range, yet we are different. We can celebrate these differences. Parents have certain expectations of their children....boys will be athletic, their children will read, their children will dance. After parents read this book, they might instead look at their babies and find out who they are and celebrate their unique personalities. It is a book about love.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shana

    Don't let the thickness or the seemingly daunting and depressing description keep you away from this book! On the surface, this book is about families living with extraordinary circumstances, but in fact, it is much, much more. It is about vertical identities (shared within a family) versus horizontal identities, which a child shares with people that are not his or her parents. Solomon takes a chapter each to fully examine topics ranging from Down Syndrome and Deafness to children born of rape an Don't let the thickness or the seemingly daunting and depressing description keep you away from this book! On the surface, this book is about families living with extraordinary circumstances, but in fact, it is much, much more. It is about vertical identities (shared within a family) versus horizontal identities, which a child shares with people that are not his or her parents. Solomon takes a chapter each to fully examine topics ranging from Down Syndrome and Deafness to children born of rape and musical prodigies. Using families he has interviewed and spent time with, he explores how these families' lives changed with each situation. He also does a thorough job researching the background of each "condition" and its history, politics, treatments, controversies, and more. Although it would have been easy for this to end up being a simple non-fiction review, Solomon injects so much humanity into his writing about these families and also puts so much of himself and his journey into it, which makes it all the more compelling. As a new parent, I found a lot of it difficult to read because of all of the emotions it brought up, but I appreciated that because it made me question my own prejudices and become more honest with myself. It seems that Solomon also had an awakening of sorts in his process of researching and writing this book. Besides being a new parent, I am also studying to be a family therapist and I believe that having read this book will help me in my career because I now have a basic understanding of many subcultures that I previously knew nothing about. Likewise, it taught me about the different ways in which families grow resilient when forced into what often amount to difficult or scary circumstances. Solomon truly provides a well-rounded perspective that stays respectful without minimizing or sugarcoating the challenges these families face.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    4.5 stars. Incredibly compelling. I could hardly put it down. I was afraid at first that the subject matter would leave me feeling voyeuristic, depressed, and/or enfuriated. I finished the book feeling as if I had gained a deeper understanding of humanity. It caused me to reflect on my own differences and similarities, both within my family and in relation to other families. The book does get long and it can be a downer, but I thought it was worth every page. I am completely impressed by Solomon' 4.5 stars. Incredibly compelling. I could hardly put it down. I was afraid at first that the subject matter would leave me feeling voyeuristic, depressed, and/or enfuriated. I finished the book feeling as if I had gained a deeper understanding of humanity. It caused me to reflect on my own differences and similarities, both within my family and in relation to other families. The book does get long and it can be a downer, but I thought it was worth every page. I am completely impressed by Solomon's power of empathy, intellect, and open-mindedness. He is a sympathetic guide, while being unafraid to say ask loud the hard or ugly questions and make judgments - not an easy balance. Solomon lives like prince in NY - one review described how he would roll up in a chauffeured car to interview people. You might think this class difference, along with his elite education and sexual orientation, would prevent him from connecting to the families he intereviewed. The fact that it didn't is in itself supportive of the message of the book.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.