National Book Critics Circle Award, Nonfiction, 2013
From the National Book Award-winning author of the "brave...deeply humane...open-minded, critically informed, and poetic" (The New York Times) The Noonday Demon, comes a game-changer of a book about the impact of extreme personal and cultural difference between parents and children.
A brilliant and utterly original thinker, Andrew Solomon's journey began from his experience of being the gay child of straight parents. He wondered how other families accommodate children who have a variety of differences: families of people who are deaf, who are dwarfs, who have Down syndrome, who have autism, who have schizophrenia, who have multiple severe disabilities, who are prodigies, who commit crimes, who are transgender. Bookended with Solomon's experiences as a son, and then later as a father, this book explores the old adage that says the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; instead some apples fall a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world.
In 12 sharply observed and moving chapters, Solomon describes individuals who have been heartbreaking victims of intense prejudice, but also stories of parents who have embraced their childrens' differences and tried to change the world's understanding of their conditions. Solomon's humanity, eloquence, and compassion give a voice to those people who are never heard. A riveting, powerful take on a major social issue, Far from the Tree offers far-reaching conclusions about new families, academia, and the way our culture addresses issues of illness and identity.
©2012 Andrew Solomon (P)2012 Simon & Schuster, Inc
"In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon reminds us that nothing is more powerful in a child's development than the love of a parent. This remarkable new book introduces us to mothers and fathers across America - many in circumstances the rest of us can hardly imagine - who are making their children feel special, no matter what challenges come their way." (President Bill Clinton)
"This is one of the most extraordinary books I have read in recent times - brave, compassionate and astonishingly humane. Solomon approaches one of the oldest questions - how much are we defined by nature versus nurture? - and crafts from it a gripping narrative. Through his stories, told with such masterful delicacy and lucidity, we learn how different we all are, and how achingly similar. I could not put this book down." (Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies)
"An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life, and the future of humanity." (Kirkus)
Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."
The morning of December 14, 2012, I had a long drive and intermittent NPR stations, so I continued to listen to "Far From the Tree". The printed book is 702 pages long, and it's about 40 Audible hours. I was on Chapter X, Crime.
The book is beautifully narrated, and author/narrator Andrew Solomon's pronounciation of difficult terms is flawless. Even so, it's a difficult listen.
I have often wished that Audible had a true Table of Contents, and never more than with this book. The chapters are (with thanks to Amazon print) I. Son; II.Deaf III. Dwarfs IV. Downs Syndrome V. Autism VI. Schizophrenia VII. Disabilities VIII. Prodigies IX. Rape X. Crime XI. Transgender XII. Father.
Each section could, on its own, be a separate book - with the exception of I. Son and XII. Father - combine those two, and those would make a book.
Dwight Garner and Julie Meyer, writing separate reviews for the New York Times in November, love the book unreservedly. After listening to "Columbine", I was thinking of using a credit for this new book. I purchased "Far From the Tree" right after reading Meyer's rhapsodic review.
I am the mother of two teenagers who would not be in any of Solomon's chapters, but each and every section made me ache with my love for them. The challenges of normal teenagers, with raging hormones, lightning fast mood changes, and their sudden bursts of astounding clarity pale in comparison to what Solomon's families face. I am a better parent to them knowing that they are 'normal'.
I'm not a physician, sociologist or therapist - I'm just a Mom. I gained real confidence in trying my best to be a good Mom from this book. It was the best 'parenting' book I've read since "What to Expect When You're Expecting" by Heidi Muroff and Sharon Mazel. The books are entirely different, but reading them has the same effect. I am more (not less) confident about my mothering because of these books.
Which brings me back to December 14, 2012, the day of the Newtown/Sandy Hook mass murder. I have been wondering since then whether Sue Klebold, if given the choice, would have rather have been in Nancy Lanza's position - killed before she knew what her son did. I suspect not, and I hope Solomon can answer the queston for us.
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“Far from the Tree” is so much more than promised by the title. It consists of twelve distinct, fascinating and perspective-changing chapters that weave into a cohesive story of love and resilience. The author performs flawlessly, not so much because he is a professional narrator, but because this story is told from his heart.
Before listening to this book I questioned whether or not I would be able to sustain interest for 40 hours, but as soon as it started I was hooked. Hours flew by like minutes and I devoured this book until the very end.
I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book.
Far from the Tree (FFTT) is a structured summary of selected childhood disabilities and challenging behaviors. The science and personal family stories associated with these disabilities/challenges are expertly woven together by the author and narrator, Andrew Solomon. The strengths of FFTT are the insights and revelations made by author when documenting the affected family’s thoughts/feelings relative to caring for an atypical child. Some of the disabilities/challenges Solomon takes on include Deafness, Autism, Dwarfs, Prodigies, Children born of Rape, and Transgender. Solomon breaks down each chapter according to a single disability and gives the reader/listener a complete analysis of the subject.What makes FFTT different from any other books on disabilities/challenges is Solomon provides such an expansive view of the subject. He provides both the science and family affect. For example, in the chapter of Autism there are discussions of the behavioral symptoms, early indicators, parental response to the diagnosis, parental adjustment to the diagnosis, physiological explanations (brain), treatment options, interactions with schools, early intervention, and descriptions of the day to day existence of caring for a child with special needs. Instead of writing a paragraph on each subject, Solomon blends the information together to create a compelling and realistic picture of the experiences encountered by the families. It is this blending process that makes FFTT deeply personal and realistic. The reader is not simply spoon fed a list of facts, but provided facts in relation to how family’s deal and respond to a particular challenge. What will readers get out of FFTT? Readers will learn how families cope and respond to having an atypical child. Readers will learn about the science various disabilities and behavioral challenges of atypical children. Readers will admire how many of these affected families pull themselves out of the shock of having an atypical child and become great parents.
UMM, CAN I HAVE THE AUDIO VERSION, PLZ!!
Yes. I would recommend Far From the Tree to people who are not my friends because everyone should read Andrew Solomon's great and important work. His treatment is a gift, and offers an important opportunity to learn.
I remained intrigued throughout the many hours of this book, as preconceived ideas about ability and disability fell one after another.
I have never read any book like this one.
I was wary of listening to an author read his own book, but Solomon does an excellent job and makes it all seem very intimate, as if you are along on each interview.
I will never look at people with differences in the same way.
Andrew Solomon covered so much information in this book, but I wished there was more. The sign of a great scientist, he left me with so many questions: what about the children who aren't from affluent families? What will happen as these children age?
The author, as a narrator, was disappointing. I couldn't help but imagine him standing at a lectern presenting a paper to a large group of students. Instead, I wanted to envision him interacting with those he interviewed.
His material engaged me. His presentation didn't. I heartily recommend this book in spite of "the reader"
? does the prospect of parenthood seem daunting to you
? do you have strained relations with your parents or children
? do you struggle to just understand members of your own family
andrew solomon has written a vast and well-researched 2 part book for you
the miles travelled and calories burned, in writing this book, are impressive
i suspect, it will incentivize other lesser writers to explore this topic
the 1st book involves dwarfism, autism, deafness, schizophrenia and down's
the tone is empathetic and insightful / the emphasis is on fixing the problem
mr. solomon puts his subjects at ease as he draws out their stories
the 2nd book involves rape, MSD, crime, prodigies, transgender and father/son
the tone is a bit caustic and preachy / the emphasis is on fixing the blame
mr. solomon seems to use his subjects to make his personal point
overall, the book's empathy and patience and time invested are impressive
however, mr. solomon is clear eyed and critical when he needs to be
especially when risks aren't assessed and mistakes are made repeatedly
in the future, i hope the book's scope may extend beyond our shores
american medicine is such an outlier compared to other 1st world countries
we just love invasive surgery, expensive drugs and the latest therapeutic fad
? could it be that other, less affluent, cultures have answers for these issues
? if the book's struggles truly are universal, there may be better foreign answers
i'd be interested to know how the world's most ancient cultures approach them
mr. solomon is an operatic, depressed, misunderstood, gay, jewish new yorker
it's impressive how often he fits these attributes into his subjects stories
this tendency is so persistent that it's almost anthropomorphic
mr. solomon has written a truly great book that will help many people
but his own story is not as important as the story of his subjects
he's a more than talented writer and, in time, he'll learn to get out of the way
This book is for people who have never given a thought to the differences among people. Perhaps people who stereotype others. Or who lack empathy. It is not at all interesting or entertaining. Solomon colors his discoveries by his own sad youth of not being able to express himself as a gay person growing up.
I am a retired Histology Technician. My time is spent caring for my grandchildren, my dog, cat, and blue & gold macaw.
As a rule I have found books narrated by their author a dismal failure, but, with his deep, easy to understand reading, Mr. Solomon did a wonderful job in bringing his book life. I gave five stars to his " Performance ".
In a series of interviews with the parents and often the " different " children themselves, we are given an inside view of the hardships and the joys of the bearing and rearing of children that are different , often in very profound ways, from their parents, their siblings and society's accepted norm.
By quoting the parents we hear the honest, compassionate, fearful, optimistic, angry and questioning voices of mothers and fathers as they review their lives since becoming the parents of disabled children. The child's disability can be profound and clearly visible to the outside world or almost undetectable on casual observation. But, no matter the situation the child and the parents have often been ignored and pushed aside by the medical professionals they seek help from and have had to forge their own paths to help their child.
Mr. Solomon shows great sensitivity while exposing the wounds caused prejudice and fear and does this without undo attention to the negative. I was often impressed by his bringing to light the love, devotion and blessings brought about by the presence of these children. I am a great believer in the sanctity of life and the fact that those in need of our care are here not only for their soul's benefit but also for the soul's benefit and blessing of those that serve and care for them. I also hold that the presence of these children effects a family for many generations.
This book kept my interest and, as a parent myself, tugged at my heart strings.
I gave four stars to the book overall because it seemed to end without an end. I did not expect a profound resolution to any of the difficulties presented or any happy ever after tales of love conquering all, but, somehow, and I really don't know how to explain how, the book just seemed to 'peter out'. However, it is a book I will listen to again knowing I will enjoy the presentation and learn much from the content. It is worth one's time.
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