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A Horizontal Identity

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner 2012)

by Virginia Vitzthum

Andrew Solomon spent 10 years interviewing more than 250 families, from which he generated 40,000 pages of transcripts and fashioned the 700 page tome Far From the Tree (Scribner). But even those numbers don’t do justice to his wild ambition. … Far From the Tree is fundamentally about the bonds and burdens of family, and it’s a huge valentine to those who embrace the challenge of raising children who are in some way not what they had hoped for. …

Were there times when being empathetic became difficult, when you found yourself resisting?

Sure. Experiencing your difference as an identity is very empowering, but I don’t believe it’s always accurate or honest. If you’re deaf and don’t want a cochlear implant and want to be part of a signing culture, terrific. But if someone else is deaf and wants a cochlear implant and to engage with the hearing world, don’t try to pressure them not to. Identity politics can be really aggressive.

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