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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 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. 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 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 bitabout 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 wasinterested 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 l 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 onthan 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 arelikely 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 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. 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 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 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 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 interventionsThere are organisations promoting other ways of dealing with wayward teenagers One of these is Fight Crime Invest in Kids This is an organisation led bythan 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 1994It is about half of what it used to be.The rate for murder is down 75%.In some instances criminality may be geneticThe 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 usersOnly 1% of those arrested receive substance abuse treatment.Many juveniles have mental health problemsAs 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 disabilitiesSome 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 caseslike 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 childrenthan their familiesThis 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.GangsTwo thirds of chronic juvenile offenders are gang membersGangs in the USA in 2009 731,000 gang membersHalf of them juveniles28,000 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 worldbenign than my own I think it was probably the last benefit that was most important


  6. 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


  7. says:

    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 Manhattaniteon 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 havethan 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 thecompelling 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 muchtotalizing, 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 aextreme 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 .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 thenuanced 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 thinkabout 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 considercarefully 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 demandsfrom 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, butoften 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


  8. 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 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 withthan 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 isnecessary 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 needtherapy than punishment, how disabled children often exhibit a special, bittersweet resilience, andHumans 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 readingof his work in the future


  9. says:

    This book can be best described as a Piping Hot Mess.this book s topic bites off not onlythan Solomon himself can chew, butthan 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 onlythan Solomon himself can chew, butthan 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. 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 b 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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Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity download Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, read online Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, kindle ebook Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity 33337d1affac 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