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Book Explores Space Between Disability, Identity

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon. New York: Scribner, 2012.

by Leanne Italie

Gay, dyslexic and the survivor of near-death depression, writer Andrew Solomon has been acutely aware of his differences for most of his 49 years.

Palpable discomfort from his wealthy, Upper East Side parents over his sexuality, relentless bullying on the bus of his fancy private school — he never realized exactly how his differences connected him to a constellation of others who fall outside the mainstream. That is, until he delved into deaf culture for a magazine story 15 years ago, leading him to dwell during a decade’s worth of research in the space between disability and identity for a new book, “Far from the Tree.”

… AP: What surprised you about what you found?

Solomon: I think I went into this project thinking, OK, I’m going to look at these terribly difficult situations and see how people have struggled with them and look at the nobility of their suffering, so I wanted to write about, you know, the grandeur of this experience. But what I didn’t really anticipate was how much genuine joy I would encounter, how many of these people talked about a deep and meaningful connection to their children and how many of them said that having had children who had any of these qualities had actually made them better, stronger, wiser, kinder people than they otherwise would have been. In the end I felt that many of these parents ended up grateful for experiences they would have done anything to avoid.

(To read the full interview, please visit Minnesota Public Radio.)