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From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance—all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Book Reviews

Far From the Tree
Average rating
4.4 / 5
Brilliant treatise on special children
February 14th, 2015
A thoroughly brilliant study on all manner of disabilities. Researched and well written. An important work
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1 review
Monumental, moving
November 3rd, 2014
Through a dozen chapters Solomon talks with families divided by deafness, physical impairments, sexuality, crime, and more. It's a beautiful, heartfelt book that takes its time and shows true respect for its subjects, who Solomon seems to have spent a decade interviewing. I read one chapter every month while reading other books along the way (I STRONGLY recommend this approach, as each chapter is the length of a short book), and I felt like when I got to the end I was a slightly kinder, more patient and compassionate person. An incredible, monumental book that I can't praise highly enough.
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1 review
Very good
November 1st, 2014
Solomon writes a well researched tome about the relationships parents have with their children who are unlike them – children with disabilities, children who become criminals, children who are prodigies, children who are born of rape, etc. Each chapter tackles a different hurdle. Despite its size, this book was immensely readable and informative. My only criticism is that it could have been better organized and edited. I felt like Solomon wanted to include every case study simply because he had the info, and often his examples overload one point while leaving others fallow. As well, the intro meanders on too long about his acceptance of his homosexuality.
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1 review
Truly amazing book
March 31st, 2013
Incredibly well researched and well written
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1 review

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