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Why everyone should read Far From The Tree

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

Poet Andrew Motion, who chaired the judges, described Far From the Tree as ‘startlingly intelligent, generously compassionate, memorably insightful, and courageous’. What’s it all about? Andrew Solomon’s book grew out of his need to understand parents’ attempts to deal with children who have starkly different identities to themselves, and examines parent-child relationships in all sorts of difficult situations, from parents of children born with disabilities, to gifted children, to children with criminal tendencies, or children born of rape. It’s a book about empathy and how, if we let them, our differences can unite us.

…What was it about the parent-child relationship and an encounter of difference in that area that made that relationship so interesting? How did that relationship teach you about people’s relationship with people of difference generally?

What I found out was that almost everyone you talk to as a parent will describe at some point finding their child incredibly foreign and alienating. I found as I worked on it that I was just consistently moved by the courage of these parents and struck by the fact that most people end up loving the children they have and don’t spend a whole lifetime wishing they had different children instead. Some people do but you’re going to be able to care for your child much better and love your child much better if you aren’t constantly railing against who your child fundamentally is.

I ended up thinking there was this huge question, which I called the ‘Serenity Prayer’ question, which was, ‘What are the things about your child that you simply need to accept, what are the things about your child that you need to affect and change – I mean, parenthood is to do with moulding your children – and how do you tell which are which?’ And how do you then ensure that your child is loved? I found that people are much better at that than you would think.

(To read the full review, please visit the Psychologies website.)