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

Andrew Solomon
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 13 2012
From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

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

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

Frequently Bought Together

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity + The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression + My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
Price For All Three: CDN$ 61.17

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“It’s a book everyone should read and there’s no one who wouldn’t be a more imaginative and understanding parent—or human being—for having done so.” (Julie Myerson The New York Times Book Review)

“Solomon is a storyteller of great intimacy and ease…He approaches each family’s story thoughtfully, respectfully…Bringing together their voices, Solomon creates something of enduring warmth and beauty: a quilt, a choir.” (Kate Tuttle The Boston Globe)

“Solomon’s first chapter, entitled ‘Son,’ is as masterly a piece of writing as I’ve come across all year. It combines his own story with a taut and elegant précis of this book’s arguments. It is required reading…This is a book that shoots arrow after arrow into your heart.” (Dwight Garner The New York Times)

“A brave, beautiful book that will expand your humanity.” (Anne Leslie PEOPLE)

“[Far from the Tree] is a masterpiece of non-fiction, the culmination of a decade’s worth of research and writing, and it should be required reading for psychologists, teachers, and above all, parents…A bold and unambiguous call to redefine how we view difference…A stunning work of scholarship and compassion.” (Carmela Ciuraru USA Today)

“Deeply moving…” (Lisa Zeidner The Washington Post)

“A book of extraordinary ambition…Part journalist, part psychology researcher, part sympathetic listener, Solomon’s true talent is a geographic one: he maps the strange terrain of the human struggle that is parenting.” (Brook Wilensky-Lanford The San Francisco Cronicle)

“Monumental…Solomon has an extraordinary gift for finding his way into the relatively hermetic communities that form around conditions…and gaining the confidence of the natives.” (Lev Grossman TIME)

“Masterfully written and brilliantly researched…Far from the Tree stands apart from the countless memoirs and manuals about special needs parenting published in the last couple of decades.” (Tina Calabro Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“A careful, subtle, and surprising book.” (Nathan Heller The New Yorker)

Far from the Tree is fundamentally about the bonds and burdens of family, and it’s a huge valentine to those who embrace the challenge of raising children who are in some way not what they had hoped for.” (Virginia Vitzthum ELLE)

“Solomon has found remarkable fonts of love and kindness in the mothers and fathers of children afflicted with severe problems, and he captures their lives in one touching anecdote after another.” (Paul McHugh The Wall Street Journal)

“A raucous, joyful tribute that exalts all parents who love their alien offspring with molten force.” (Ann Bauer Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

“Solomon is a superb writer…[Far from the Tree] is the author’s “Song of Myself,” a book containing multitudes. It is a gorgeous, necessary, ambitious book.” (George Estreich The Oregonian)

“Solomon treats his subjects with great empathy.” (Rachel Wexelbaum Lambda Literary Review)

“Deeply profound…[A] brilliant tome.” (Kristen Kemp Parents magazine)

“A behemoth worth every one of its 976 pages.” (Amy Boaz Publishers Weekly)

“Years of interviews with families and their unique children culminate in this compassionate compendium…The truth Solomon writes about here is as poignant as it is implacable, and he leaves us with a reinvented notion of identity and individual value." (Booklist)

“[These] stories are entirely unpredictable and offer us the full range of human experience—not only the horror but also the astonishing beauty—and in the end a Shakespearean sense that we are such stuff as dreams are made of.” (Judith Newman More)

“Profoundly moving…Solomon’s own trials of feeling marginalized as gay, dyslexic, and depressive, while still yearning to be a father, frame these affectingly rendered real tales about bravely playing the cards one’s dealt.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life, and the future of humanity.” (Kirkus, starred review)

“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.” (President Bill Clinton)

"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)

“Far-reaching, original, fascinating—Andrew Solomon's investigation of many of the most intense challenges that parenthood can bring compels us all to reexamine 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)

“Solomon, a highly original student of human behavior, has written an intellectual history that lays the foundation for 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)

“Andrew Solomon has written a brave and ambitious work, bringing together science, culture and a powerful empathy. Solomon tells us that we have more in common with each other—even with those who seem anything but normal—than we would ever have imagined.” (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point)

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)

About the Author

Andrew Solomon is the author of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, A Stone Boat, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, winner of fourteen national awards, including the 2001 National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a New York Times bestseller, now published in twenty-two languages. He lives in New York and London with his husband and children.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars astounding book Sept. 2 2013
truly one of the most well written and researched books I have read in years. It's a long slog, but absolutely worth it. He takes you on journeys thru disabilities, prodigies, children of rape, transgender, etc. His intimacies with people and their stories present the complete spectrum of possibilities of reaction to "different children". His interview with the Klebold parents is compelling, as actually is the whole book. It makes you examine and regroup your sense of normalcy. Don't miss it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Book Jan. 12 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this book! I have supported people with many different challenges for over 15 years, and reading this book has widened my perceptions and, also, helped me to feel part of a community (I also am wired a little differently). The chapter on Deaf excited me......Solomon's history of the struggle and evolution of the deaf community was intriguing and so amazing to me. I found myself having long, soul-searching times, hit with how much my perception of other people is framed and tainted with subconcious patterns created by my own familiy, community, and education. And I thought I was so liberal and free!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read!0 Jan. 4 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book as I am in the special needs field. I liked the comparisons of the trials we face, how love is always the root of what we do for our children and how children come to love their parents no matter the circumstances. There is very clear definitions of all abilities expressed in this book. The realism with which it is written brings the reader to feeling compassion for others and teaches those in whatever role we think we're in. This book will expand your mind and give insight to human behaviour and how it affects each and every person!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, and Solomon is an EXCELLENT Writer. May 10 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I saw Andrew Solomon interviewed and immediately ordered this book. He is well spoken and writes just as well!! The examination of a variety of realities that parents have navigated, and continue to navigate, is detailed, compassionate, objective and revealing. The presentation of vertical versus horizontal identity - extremely interesting. "Walk a mile in my shoes" comes to mind, with regard to both the children and their parents. Prejudices are discussed, and the notion that humanity is inherently varied, is a pleasant and liberating one.

Read this book and be enlightened. Andrew Solomon is a genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... March 1 2013
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Monumental? Yes. Intimidating? Definitely. Worthwhile? Absolutely. Andrew Solomon's "Far From The Tree" represents the culmination of a decade's worth of research and writing. The author interviewed hundreds of families for his book and, in 12 chapters filled with inspiring but harrowing stories, he tells of these families' struggles with autism, deafness, schizophrenia, dwarfism and more. Children with these conditions are "apples that have fallen elsewhere — some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world."

Solomon also explores the lives of prodigies, "freaks" of another sort who feel as isolated, mystified and petrified as those with disabilities. Ultimately, he approaches each subject in a profoundly personal way, interweaving his own story of growing up gay, dyslexic and suicidal. He calls for a redefinition of difference, arguing in favour of vulnerability and empathy over ignorance and disgust. He values self-acceptance over fitting in and offers startling, inspiring revelations within a stunning work of scholarship.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it Jan. 29 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was perfect for my reading style, which is to pick up the book when I have time. It really opened my eyes to different challenges that the human race face. Very good read!
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