Monday, January 14, 2013

Far from the Tree

Andrew Solomon

In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tackles the age-old idea that parents seek to replicate themselves in their offspring, and he examines what happens in families that instead have children who are exceptional in a wide range of ways, from deafness to Down syndrome, from conception in rape to indulgence in criminal activity. Genetic research is turning the nature versus nurture debate on its head, and this book is in the middle of this debate. Solomon considers the overlap between identity and illness, and the roles that individuals, families, and society play in creating an artificial distinction between the two.

Far from the Tree, which took over ten years to research and write, is remarkably timely—gay rights are being debated around the world, we’re still reeling from the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and diagnosis standards for both autism and transgenderism are being re-defined among mental health professionals. This book addresses the lives of families dealing with each of these situations and more, and explores the role of compassion in acceptance and family functioning. Solomon deftly weaves in a multitude of voices, including his own, ultimately seeking to break through the barriers that isolate us within our differences. He encourages us to look across and beyond these differences to realize that they should unite us instead of tearing us apart, and allow us to accept ourselves and one another. Don’t be intimidated by the size of this book; Solomon’s narrative is engaging, enriching, and relevant to each of us.

- Jenny Glozman

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