Lea Anna, March 19, 2013 (view all comments by Lea Anna)
This is quite the tome, but I can't imagine anything that should be removed. The topics that Solomon explores are completely fascinating and he does an excellent job portraying the differences, obstacles, delights and sorrow of parents and children with horizontal identities. His research is in depth and wide. Each chapter leads into the next building off each other which brings in the larger picture of parenting. While I'm not a parent or child with any of these identities, reading this has made me realize how varied relationships can be and how to be a better person towards people with horizontal identities.
Robyn Crummer-Olson, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Robyn Crummer-Olson)
When I first received the book, I couldn't imagine why it needed to be so long. After I finished the first chapter on deaf or hearing children and their deaf or hearing parents, I could not think of one single profile that seemed superfluous. Every single family profile contributed to a more nuanced understanding of the trials and triumphs of raising children with this particular horizontal identity. Throughout every other chapter, Solomon gives intimate, illuminating details about these families' lives, provides historical and medical context of the diagnoses, and strings together complex issues of prenatal testing, identity politics, and the ambivalence of accommodation. It's a complex book that has changed me as both a parent and a person.
tk poet, January 4, 2013 (view all comments by tk poet)
Written from the parents' point of view, regarding dealing with exceptional children. Covers a wide range of conditions. Well written and fascinating interviews.
Debra K, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by Debra K)
I typically am a fiction fanatic but a friend gifted me this book and I have not been able to put it down. Solomon explores the challenges of both parenting and being a child whose identity falls far from their family tree through the realities of deafness, dwarfism, Down's Syndrome, schizophrenia and other "horizontal identities". He is incredible at weaving families' gutwrenching and heartening stories with science and cultural observations. This book is a page turner that has made me think about my own family's unique characteristics and the power of differences which ultimately unite.
Kathy Lee, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Kathy Lee)
I am not usually a fan of nonfiction books, but, Far from the Tree, Children and the Search for Identity is a huge exception. This book has not only kept my attention but stimulated my thinking about people who are greatly different from the norm, how that affects their family, themselves and the society at large and the controversies surrounding the interfaces between all of these groups. Solomon has done a thorough and thoughtful exploration of groups including children who are deaf, have Down's Syndrome, are autistic, have schizophrenia, are the product of rape or have engaged in criminal activities to name just a few of the groups explored. He discusses how these people see themselves, how their parents see and interact with them and how the greater society does or does not take on responsibility for helping. This is a superbly written and researched book that so far has not flagged in keeping and engaging my attention (I am two thirds through the 1000 pages). I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of those who are somehow different and exploring how we as a society should and can approach this difference for the benefit of all and the development of a more ethical and caring society for all of its members.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"A profoundly moving new work of research and narrative by National Book Award — winner Solomon (The Noonday Demon) explores the ways that parents of marginalized children — being gay, dwarf, severely disabled, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, the product of rape, or given to criminal tendencies or prodigious musical talent, to name a few he chose — have been transformed and largely enriched by caring for their high-needs children. These children are marginalized by society, classified traditionally as ill and abnormal, and shunned; in the cases of those who are deaf or homosexual, they were forced to conform to mainstream strictures. A seasoned journalist and LGBT activist, Solomon relies on anecdotes to convey the herculean tasks facing parents and caregivers of special-needs children because 'stories acknowledge chaos,' and he takes great pains to probe the dark side of parental despair and anger, as well as ennobling efforts of resilience and strength. Sifting through arguments about nature versus nurture, Solomon finds some startling moments of discovery, for example, among Deaf activists who ferociously cling to their marginality, parents of children with Down syndrome who express their children's infinite 'mystery and beauty,' and the truculent compassion of Dylan Klebold's parents, 10 years after the Columbine High School shootings. 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. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families,
"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."
by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies,
"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."
by Kirkus, 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."
by President Bill Clinton,
"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."
by Eric Kandel, author of The Age of Insight and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,
"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 unrivaled 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."
by Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point,
"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."
by Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad,
"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."
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