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. In Solomon’s telling, these stories are everyone’s stories.
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 and innumerable triumphs of love. 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.
Voices from the Book
On autism and disability: Bill and Chris Davis
On deafness: Jackie Roth
On Down Syndrome: Deirdre Featherstone and Catherine Madden
On dwarfism: Clinton Brown III
On schizophrenia: Susan Weinreich
On being transgender: Kim Reed
On being a prodigy: Nico Muhly
Andrew Solomon on the subjects and themes
of Far from the Tree
Dutch: Ver van de Boom: Als je Kind Anders Is
Translators: Chiel van Soelen, Pieter van der Veen, Jos den Bekker, Graa Boomsma. Amsterdam: Nieuw Amsterdam, October 2013.
German: Weit vom Stamm: Wenn Kinder Ganz Anders als ihre Eltern Sind
Translators: Henning Dedekind, Antoinette Gittinge, Enrico Heinemann, Ursula Held. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2013.
Italian: Lontano dall’Albero. Storie di Genitori e Figli che Hanno Imparato ad Amarsi
Translator: Massimo Parizzi. Milan: Mondadori, 2013.
Norwegian: Langt Fra Stammen: Foreldre, Barn Og Jakten På Identitet
Translators: Hege Mehren, Lene Stokseth, Merete Nilssen. Oslo: Forlaget, 2013.
Portuguese (Brazilian): Longe Da Árvore: Pais, Filhos e a Busca Da Identidade
Translators: Pedro Maia Soares e Donaldson M. Garschagen e Luiz A. de Araújo. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2013.
Spanish (Castilian): Lejos del Árbol: Historias de Padres e Hijos que Han Aprendido a Quererse
Translators: Joaquin Chamorro Mielke y Sergio Lledó Rando. Madrid: Debate, 2014.