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Salon Interviews Andrew Solomon about Far From the Tree

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

by David Daley

… You will probably find yourself wiping away tears. You will find yourself underlining lines of breathtaking insight on nearly every other page. You might find yourself angry over the way Solomon equates or compares very different challenges. But it’s impossible to read Far From The Tree without testing the limits of your own empathy. Forget what Jesus would do. What would you do?

Each chapter in your book presents a very unique kind of difference. What ties them together, and should we tie them together?

All of these people that I’ve been talking to are dealing with very specific kinds of difference and feeling, in most instances, isolated by the condition they had. There aren’t that many people with schizophrenia; there aren’t that many people with dwarfism; there aren’t that many people in any of these categories. And I found out that there is so much that their experiences have in common — that process of accommodating, accepting, loving, even celebrating a child who had a marked difference from what the parents had in mind was really quite consistent from group to group. It didn’t really matter whether we were looking at what the child did, as we were in the crime chapter; or how the child was born, in the Down Syndrome chapter. That was consistent. And it had a lot in common, in my view, with the experience I had negotiated as the gay child of straight parents. And so I think that sense of difference is actually something that almost everyone has in common, rather than something that isolates people. I didn’t know that’s what I was working on in the beginning.

(To read the full interview, please visit Salon.)