by David Aaronovitch
In the first, remarkable chapter of this transforming book the author, Andrew Solomon, talks about how his own childhood and adolescence brought it about. He had realised that people have two broad identities. One, their vertical identity, was that conferred by their parents and upbringing and might consist of locality, religion and colour — all traits recognisable to their fathers and mothers. The second, horizontal identity, however, would be something belonging to them that their parents might never have dreamed of.
In Solomon’s case it was homosexuality. Loved though he was, the realisation that their son was gay was a puzzle and at first a sadness to his heterosexual parents. And therefore he was a puzzle to himself. He had, in the old saying, fallen far from the tree. The “need to investigate the locus of my regret”, writes Solomon, brought him to look at the circumstances of other children who were not what their parents had expected or indeed hoped for but were “apples that have fallen elsewhere — some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world”.
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