Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts.
Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology.
Solomon’s newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, published November 13, 2012, 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. 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 struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter. Woven into these 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.
President Bill Clinton said of the book, “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.”
Eric Kandel, winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology and author of The Age of Insight, said of the book, “Andrew 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.”
Solomon’s last book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (Scribner, 2001), won the 2001 National Book Award for Nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and was included in The Times of London’s list of one hundred best books of the decade. A New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback editions, The Noonday Demon has also been a bestseller in seven foreign countries, and has been published in twenty-four languages. The New York Times described it as “All-encompassing, brave, deeply humane… a book of remarkable depth, breadth and vitality… open-minded, critically informed and poetic all at the same time… fearless, and full of compassion.”
The Noonday Demon was named a Notable Book by both the New York Times and the American Library Association, and received the Books for a Better Life Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; the 2002 Ken Book Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City; Mind Book of the Year; the Lambda Literary Award for Autobiography/Memoir; and Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Visions Award. Following publication of The Noonday Demon, Solomon was honored with the Dr. Albert J. Solnit Memorial Award from Fellowship Place; the Voice of Mental Health Award from the Jed Foundation and the National Mental Health Association (now Mental Health America); the Prism Award from the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association; the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services; the Charles T. Rubey L.O.S.S. Award from the Karla Smith Foundation; and the Silvano Arieti Award from the William Alanson White Institute.
A native New Yorker, Andrew Solomon attended the Horace Mann School, graduating cum laude in 1981. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Yale University in 1985, graduating magna cum laude, and later earned a Master’s degree in English at Jesus College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge, he received the top first-class degree in English in his year, the only foreign student ever to be so-honored, as well as the University writing prize. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at Jesus College, Cambridge, Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies, working on the relation between biological and psychosocial models of early attachment between mothers and infants under the supervision of Prof. Juliet Mitchell.
In 1988, Solomon began his study of Russian artists, which culminated in the publication of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost (Knopf, 1991). He was asked in 1993 to consult with members of the National Security Council on Russian affairs and wrote parts of Clinton’s first Russia speeches. His first novel, A Stone Boat (Faber, 1994), the story of a man’s shifting identity as he watches his mother battle cancer, was a national bestseller and runner up for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction prize; it has since been published in five languages.
From 1993 to 2001, Solomon was a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, writing on a wide range of subjects; he has also written periodically for The New Yorker. Such journalism has spanned many topics, including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, and Libyan politics.
In 2003, Solomon’s article, “The Amazing Life of Laura,” a profile of diarist Laura Rothenberg, received the Clarion Award for Health Care Journalism, and the Angel of Awareness Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In April 2009, his article, “Cancer & Creativity: One Chef’s True Story,” received the Bert Greene Award for Food Journalism by the International Association of Culinary Professionals; the story was also a finalist for the 11th Annual Henry R. Luce Award. Solomon’s reminiscence on a friend who committed suicide won the Folio Eddie Gold Award in 2011.
He has authored essays for many anthologies and books of criticism, and his work has been featured on National Public Radio’s Moth Radio Hour.
Solomon is an activist and philanthropist in LGBT rights, mental health, education and the arts. He is founder of the Solomon Research Fellowships in LGBT Studies at Yale University, and a member of the boards of directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Trans Youth Family Allies. A frequent writer on gay marriage, his articles on the subject have appeared in Newsweek, The Advocate, and Anderson Cooper 360. His July 2007 marriage to John Habich was reported in the New York Times, The London Sunday Times, Tatler, Newsweek, and numerous other publications. The wedding ceremony that he wrote for that occasion has been used as a sample text in a University of Pennsylvania Law School course on privacy and civil rights law. A story for Newsweek on how he and his husband built their family has been the subject of national media discussion and radio interviews.
He has lectured widely on depression, including at Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress. He is a lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College; a director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, Columbia Psychiatry, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; a member of the Board of Visitors of Columbia Medical School, and the Advisory Boards of the Mental Health Policy Forum at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. In 2008, Solomon received the Society of Biological Psychiatry’s Humanitarian Award for his contributions to the field of mental health, and in 2010, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s Productive Lives Award. In 2011, he was appointed Special Advisor on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Mental Health at the Yale School of Psychiatry.
Additionally, Solomon serves on the boards of the Alliance for the Arts, the World Monuments Fund, and The Alex Fund, which supports the education of Romani children. He is a member of the Chairman’s Council of the Metropolitan Museum, the Library Council of the New York Public Library, and the corporation of Yaddo. He is also a fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University, and a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the Council on Foreign Relations.
He lives with his husband and son in New York and London and is a dual national.