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Family Differences

by Sam Leith

Andrew Solomon’s simple and powerful guiding idea in this book is that there are two sorts of identity that affect your place in the world. Your ‘vertical identity’ is what you share with your parents – and it usually, but not always, includes such things as race, religion, language and social class. Children are born with ‘horizontal identities’ too – which is to say, things that they don’t share with their parents but that they have in common with others elsewhere: being the deaf child of hearing parents, the schizophrenic child of mentally well parents, or the gay child of straight parents.

Some of these horizontal identities are things that are, or were, regarded as impairments; some of them are understood as mere difference. With many, that question is precisely the one that’s up for grabs. Do we choose the ‘illness model’ or the ‘identity model’: seek to fix the condition, or seek to accept it?

(To read the rest of the review, please visit The Spectator website.)