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

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Andrew Solomon

Far from the Tree
976 pages
2014
ISBN: 9780099460992

Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2014 and twelve other national book awards, this monumental new work, a decade in the writing, tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices and shows that the shared experience of difference is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon's journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his mid-life decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, "Far from the Tree" explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance: all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

""Far from the Tree" is a landmark, revolutionary book. It frames an area of inquiry--difference between parents and children--that many of us have experienced in our own lives without ever considering it as a phenomenon. Andrew Solomon plumbs his topic thoroughly, humanely, and in a compulsively readable style that makes the book as entertaining as it is illuminating."
- Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Visit from the Goon Squad"

"Far-reaching, original, fascinating--Andrew Solomon's investigation of many of the most intense challenges that parenthood can bring compels us all to re-examine how we understand human difference. Perhaps the greatest gift of this monumental book, full of facts and full of feelings, is that it constantly makes one think, and think again."
- Philip Gourevitch, author of "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families"

"In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon reminds us that nothing is more powerful in a child's development than the love of a parent. This remarkable new book introduces us to mothers and fathers across America--many in circumstances the rest of us can hardly imagine--who are making their children feel special, no matter what challenges come their way."
- Bill Clinton, former President of the United States of America

"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 could not put this book down."
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Emperor of All Maladies"

"or a 21st century Psychological Bill of Rights. In addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on the basis of race and religion, this Bill extends inalienable rights of psychological acceptance to people on the basis of their identity. He provides us with an unrivalled educational experience about identity groups in our society, an experience that is filled with insight, empathy and intelligence. We also discover the redefining, self-restructuring nature that caring for a child produces in parents, no matter how unusual or disabled the child is. Reading "Far from the Tree" is a mind-opening experience."
- Eric Kandel, author of "The Age of Insight" and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine