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Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity summary Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, series Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, pdf Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity 4ae11ec807 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 ChapterAll 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 Than Three Hundred Families, Solomon Mines The Eloquence Of Ordinary People Facing Extreme ChallengesElegantly 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


10 thoughts on “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

  1. says:

    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. says:

    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 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 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. says:

    Mind shifting excellence.https www.ted.com talks andrew_soloIn 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 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 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. says:

    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. says:

    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 treatmentthe 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


  6. says:

    This is a very personal examination of the role of parenthood, and examines it through the lens of identity Solomon describes two forms of identity vertical , that which is transmitted from, and can be identified with, the parents, and horizontal that which significantly differs from the parent and has no mark of their influence.What might be included in horizontal identity Deafness, dwarfism, schizophrenia, autism, Down syndrome, child prodigies, LGBT people, and so forth Mental, physical, and psychological differences which are wildly variant from their parents In these thick seven hundred pages, Solomon conveys something like real empathy He tells about their cultures, their lives, how parents love, how they crack under the strain, how they love or try to love despite this vast gulf of difference between them He admits that his own prejudices have fallen away after this time of research, and he, too, finds something to love with the people he meets This book is not clinical or distant It is not an exhibition, inviting you to gawk and judge at these people It is personal, it shares the most intimate details See little people telling stories about how they d met, how difficult it is to hug sometimes See children with Downs Syndrome who are the happiest and most cheerful in the world Here, there are some autistic children who make music, and here are some who are mental infants in adult bodies, tearing at their parents in rage See prodigies who are so far distant from their parents, or are shackled by them See the woman in Rwanda who begs him, How can I love my daughter , who was the result of rape and in that question, she reveals her own love He does not treat these differences as stigmas, nor does he romanticize them It is this tender balance between the elation and despair which characterizes parenthood.This oral history has its roots in the author s own life His parents were extremely supportive with his dyslexia, but less so over his homosexuality The author has experienced the spectrum of support himself, and has a closer perspective and is willing to really learn about other people We see his journey form ostracism and self hate, and it moves to marriage with children.The book ends with this, and also an endnote about genetics testing and designer babies A curious paradox some parents of these children, especially those with rare illness or difference would describe it as the defining moment of strength and change in their lives However, others would also turn around and say that they would not wish to inflict this suffering on another person s child From someone who has been there thank you.


  7. says:

    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 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. says:

    This book can be best described as a Piping Hot Mess.this book s topic bites off not only than Solomon himself can chew, but 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.


  9. says:

    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 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 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 therapy than punishment, how disabled children often exhibit a special, bittersweet resilience, and 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 of his work in the future.


  10. says:

    This book has shoved aside books I planned to read for months I really identify with Andrew Solomon s difficulties growing up gay and dyslexic, despite being neither, which is a testament to how broad and powerful the ideas and stories about disability in here are.Most of this was five stars, an incredible piece of reporting, but there were a couple of chapters where I felt the research and analysis dropped in quality, which I think was inevitable, given a tome of this size It s a powerful book and I hope people won t be deterred by its size.


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