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)
Informative yet intimate
- very long, a good value
- very informative
- provides a lot of food for thought and perspectives I hadn't considered
- stories with a lot of human interest
came close to crying a few times. some very heavy stuff.
it makes you think a lot about things that can go wrong in life (or sometimes pre-life), which is a huge bummer. I felt sad a lot while listening to this book, but I was extremely engaged. warning: this book has an entire section that talks about rape, and the consequences thereof, so a trigger warning may be warranted for people who are sensitive to such material. I didn't get "triggered" as much as slowly I felt sickened and saddened by these stories in particular.
? 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
One of the very best.
The sections on deafness and dwarfism are, by far, the strongest in the book.
Andrew Solomon was a peerless narrator for his own book because he could accurately reenact the dialogue from the interviews that make-up the book.
True happiness can come from parenting any and every child, and it always comes from the same source: when the parent stops seeing the child as a narcissistic extension of him- or herself
The book is separated into subject sections and some are excellent and some are much weaker. The sections on deafness and dwarfism, for instance, were so interesting I didn't want to do anything else but stay home and listen to them. However, the sections on musical prodigies was so thin and repetitive that I was tempted to skip around just to make it move faster. I would also like to add that, as a geneticist, I was sincerely impressed with both the authors grasp of the concepts and his ability to convey them to a non-expert.
The whole tone of the book is whiny and self indulgent. Feel like the author wanted to write an autobiography and just lumped other topics to reach a wider audience.
No just from this author
A different narrator couldn't have saved this awfulness.
I abandoned this after the underlying arrogant assumption that being gay somehow made him an empathetic authority on everything else - race, disability, dwarfism - finally got on my nerves.
This is the best audiobook I have ever listened to.
His voice is incredibly easy to listen to for 40 hours!
Yes! I couldn't put it down, so to speak.
I now know what it means what it means when someone says that something is like "music to my ears". The author's language, storytelling, and insights fed my mind in ways very similar to a beautiful song. My mind and my heart swirled into one as I listened to many of his brilliantly constructed sentences. It's not just a well-researched book on humanity, family, adversity, and courage. It is also an artistic masterpiece that touched my emotions and intellect. Seriously good audiobook.
Really enjoyed this. Solomon interweaves individuals personal stories within the context of the historical and social issues of many different conditions that separate a child's identity from their parents. Very thought provoking and moving at the same time without being preachy. You can't read this without coming away from it a changed person.
If every person in America read this book thoughtfully, we would see far reaching positive repercussions. Solomon delves into hundreds of lives and describes how they manage the lot they were given. He knew each family personally for years as he compiled the book. It is a long book, but the quickest way to appreciate the human experience, central to which is parenting.
I bought this book immediately after watching a TED talk the Author did. If you see the talk, it is easy to gauge the tone of the book and Andrew Solomon's exhaustive research and empathy for the people it is about.
This is not an easy read, children suffering incurable mental and physical illnesses and the exhaustive work of there parents sometimes with no hope of any light at the end of the tunnel is what your in for. Be warned
I was interested in this book, because my 2year old son was born with TAPVR, and was in need of immediate emergency by-pass surgery at birth, to the complete surprise of my wife and I. He is a very happy and healthy boy now and will have a complete and full life the same as any healthy child.
Many of the parents at the hospital we go to for his check ups have children that are no where near as lucky. It is with the realization that these are normal people whom have had a tremendous burden and responsibility placed on them and are doing the best they can with love and strength, There greatest worry is whom will help care for my child when I die?
I would not recommend this book to anyone who is pregnant, it will fill you with unneeded worry about the healthy birth of your child, do not buy this book.
Otherwise it is a great book (indeed it could of been many books) Andrew Solomon is a fantastic writer and thankfully he narrates the book himself, a man of amazing empathy, taking on a subject that society would rather did not exist.
Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.
Unlike some other reviewers I really like Andrew Solomon as a narrator for his own book. Usually I don't like authors as narrators but it really felt more that he was relating personally. I think a book this long without a good narrator would have been unbearable. I also don't think I could have made it through this in print form, and I am glad I did make it through.
As a parent of a special needs child myself, I was really interested in the personal stories of the families, particularly those facing issues I considered more challenging than mine. The stories in the chapters about schizophrenia and MSD I thought were particularly good. Though autism is a topic near and dear to me, that wasn't my favorite chapter. I didn't dislike it I just had stronger feelings on that subject and therefore it was easier to find things I disagreed with him on about it. However, with all the media attention that falls on high function autistics, and with how it is easier to get information from such people, I was glad to see Solomon provide examples of families facing the more severe forms. I saw reviewers object to repetition in the stories, but I did not object. I felt it helped drive home the point of the relentlessness of some people's issues. I felt less connected to some of the other chapters. I was not entirely convinced, despite Solomon's persuasive arguments, that all these chapters formed a cohesive whole. I found the chapter on musical prodigies particularly out of sync with the rest of the book and it held my interest the least. A lot of what went on there was more about abusive parent behavior than about a child's identity. The chapter on children of rape also felt out of sync and did not feel as inspiring to me as many of the others. It was certainly tragic and sad, but also had a lot of child abuse in it. I felt the strongest parts related to the traditional disabilities. However, I also found the chapter on Transgender people to be very informative and it did highlight a prejudice I wasn't even aware I had and helped me get passed that.
I did cry at several points over moving stories.
All in all, I would and did recommend it, particularly for people who are inspired by people facing challenges.
author of books for teens and children
I learned a lot about disabled children and their parents. Much of it was very heartwarming. The book presented wonderful life lessons in love, acceptance, and struggling against the odds.
However, it could have been a stronger book it if had been edited down. Many of the examples were repetitive (for instance, showing many different families similarly affected by schizophrenia), and there were entire chapters that didn't seem to fit within the topic of the book (for instance, children conceived from rape). It was as if the author felt compelled to use every bit of research he'd done, and no one at the publishing house stopped him.
Also, sometimes the author didn't allow much room for alternate viewpoints.For instance, the idea that it is beneficial for children to change their genders if they desire, no matter their age, was accepted with little argument.
That said, the book was emotionally affecting and I know that much of what I learned about people in difficult circumstances will stay with me a long time.
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