Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

Andrew Solomon

Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
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Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

Andrew Solomon

Sometimes your child - the most familiar person of all - is radically different from you. The saying goes that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But what happens when it does?

Drawing on interviews with over three hundred families, covering subjects including deafness, dwarfs, Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, children born of rape, children convicted of crime and transgender people, Andrew Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices. Difference is potentially isolating, but Far from the Tree celebrates repeated triumphs of human love and compassion to show that the shared experience of difference is what unites us.

This book was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Non-fiction and eleven other national awards. It was also the winner of the Green Carnation Prize.

Review

I heard Andrew Solomon talk about his book earlier this year at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He was so inspirational that I had to buy it. In 1993 Solomon was asked by the New York Times to write a story on deaf culture, and that experience started him thinking about parenthood and what he calls ‘horizontal identities’. We have vertical identities that are passed on genetically from our parents – but what happens when our child is not like us, is not born in the image that we had conjured up for her, is far from the tree.

We don’t expect to have a child who is deaf or autistic or schizophrenic, or who is severely disabled. How do we come to terms with that? How do we come to love that child – or do we? Solomon is gay, and it was hard for his parents to come to terms with his sexuality, but they did, and loved him deeply. However, they probably would have preferred it if he wasn’t gay, so for Solomon, establishing a ‘horizontal identity’ of gayness enabled him to come to terms with his self, so much so that he can’t imagine a different or heterosexual self.

Many of the stories in this book are profoundly moving, and some are very sad, but you won’t come away from it without being deeply affected and thinking differently about the world.


Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings

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