Reviews for Far from the Tree : Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #1
*Starred Review* Solomon, who won the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon (2001), tackles daunting questions involving nature versus nurture, illness versus identity, and how they all affect parenting in his exhaustive but not exhausting exploration of what happens when children bear little resemblance to their parents. He begins by challenging the very concept of human reproduction. We do not reproduce, he asserts, spawning clones. We produce originals. And if we're really lucky, our offspring will be enough like us or our immediate forebears that we can easily love, nurture, understand, and respect them. But it's a crapshoot. More often than not, little junior will be born with a long-dormant recessive gene, or she may emerge from the womb with her very own, brand-new identifier--say, deafness, physical deformity, or homosexuality. Years of interviews with families and their unique children culminate in this compassionate compendium. Solomon focuses on the creative and often desperate ways in which families manage to tear down prejudices and preconceived fears and reassemble their lives around the life of a child who alters their view of the world. Most succeed. Some don't. But the truth Solomon writes about here is as poignant as it is implacable, and he leaves us with a reinvented notion of identity and individual value. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 October
New paperback releases for reading groups

Set on a fictional Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich’s chilling novel, The Round House, focuses on a Native American boy’s efforts to make sense of the world after a brutal crime. Joe is 13 when his mother, Geraldine, is raped near a sacred structure—the round house of the book’s title. The main suspect is white. When questions involving tribal courts and the prosecution of non-Natives complicate the legal proceedings, Joe seeks justice himself. Now an adult, he recounts this remarkable story after the fact, revisiting a turning point in his adolescence. With his girl-obsessed buddies, Joe goes on adventurous bike rides, plays the sleuth in hopes of finding his mother’s attacker and spends time with eccentric Ojibwe elders. Native American traditions contrast sharply with contemporary events, just one of many contradictions Joe struggles to reconcile. Winner of the National Book Award, this tightly plotted novel offers numerous discussion topics, including questions about gender, race and justice.

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, by National Book Award-winning author Andrew Solomon, is a groundbreaking exploration of parenthood and its attendant complexities. Solomon put 10 years of work into this expansive book, focusing on families with children who are “exceptional”—who suffer from autism, Down syndrome or schizophrenia, who are transgender or child prodigies, or even criminals. The results make for fascinating reading, as Solomon shares their experiences—the day-to-day difficulties and little victories that come with raising an outside-the-norm kid. Further enriching the narrative is the author’s own story. Solomon, who is dyslexic, says his condition posed no problems fo[Wed Aug 27 04:54:13 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. r his open-minded parents. It was his gayness that proved a challenge—for them and for him. This is a big-hearted book about the process of parenting, the meaning of personal identity and the nature of love. Because of the narrative’s length and complexity, reading groups should consider extending their reading and/or discussion time for the book.

Acclaimed author Junot Díaz returns with This Is How You Lose Her, a terrific short story collection that focuses on an inexhaustible topic: love. Featuring Yunior, an über-dude from the Dominican Republic, whom fans will recognize from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the collection explores the ways in which love influences the contemporary male. In “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” Yunior’s girlfriend, Magda, leaves him after she learns of his unfaithfulness through a letter. “Miss Lora” features a teenage Yunior who’s awakening to sex and who reflects on his difficult father and macho brother and the ways in which he resembles both. “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” finds Yunior settled in Boston, writing books and recovering from yet another breakup. In these electrifying stories, Díaz also explores the immigrant experience with spot-on insight. This exhilarating collection was nominated for the National Book Award, and it’s easy to see why.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2013 June
Award-winning author Andrew Solomon (psychiatry, Cornell) draws an amazing parallel between familial acceptance of difference and the capacity all humans could have for tolerance and acceptance of all--regardless of difference. How is it that some parents can learn not to live life through their children? How is it that some parents can strike that balance between letting their child be the individual he or she is and striving to help that child reach his or her unique potential? Solomon expresses the emotional side of the issue most clearly in the family histories he presents. But the true power of the work resides in Solomon's blend of scientific inquiry into the various illnesses and differences that fundamentally challenge individuals and families and the empowering examples of nurturing acceptance that he offers. This reader teaches courses on prejudice, discrimination, and hate. In those courses, the question of what the opposite of hate is often arises. Solomon convincingly demonstrates that hate's opposite is not love--it is acceptance of a person's individuality, in whatever shape or form that takes. This book makes clear the value of difference. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Professionals/Practitioners. R. E. Osborne Texas State University--San Marcos Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #2
National Book Award–winning journalist Solomon (The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, 2001, etc.) uses issues raised by disability to examine the nature of parenthood, the definition of disability and the ability to control reproduction to create designer children. More than a decade ago, when he was assigned to cover a student protest at the Lexington Center for the Deaf in Queens, N.Y., over the hiring of a CEO with normal hearing, the author began to look at medical and cultural issues raised by disability. The protesters demanded that deafness should not be considered a disability, but rather a neuro-diversity on par with ethnic diversity. Some members of the deaf community even considered cochlear implants in young children as "a genocidal attack on a vibrant community" because of the linguistic richness of sign language. Solomon also wrote a piece on child prodigies based on an interview with the Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, and he followed with a story about the lives of dwarfs based on the experience of a friend who sought role models for her daughter. Gradually, Far from the Tree began to take shape as the author explored more deeply the question of disability. Additional chapters cover Down syndrome (a genetic disorder), autism (of unknown origin), transgenderism and more. Solomon writes about the transformative, "terrifying joy of unbearable responsibility" faced by parents who cherish severely disabled children, and he takes an in-depth look at the struggles of parents of autistic children who behave destructively. He also explores the fascinating mental lives of independently functioning autistic individuals and speculates on the possibility that geniuses such as Mozart and Einstein were at the far end of the spectrum. Throughout, Solomon reflects on his own history as a gay man who has been bullied when he didn't conform to society's image of masculinity. An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life and the future of humanity. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #2

Winner of the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon and a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Columbia Medical School, Solomon began seeing illness and identity as related when he covered the deaf pride movement in the 1990s. Here, he expands on this notion by exploring how families deal with children who fall outside the perceived boundaries of normal--those with dwarfism, Down syndrome, or exceptional genius, for instance, or who commit serious crimes--showing how both family and children redefine themselves. Not specialized; there will be broad interest.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #3

A profoundly moving new work of research and narrative by National Book Award-winner Solomon (The Noonday Demon) explores the ways that parents of marginalized children--being gay, dwarf, severely disabled, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, the product of rape, or given to criminal tendencies or prodigious musical talent, to name a few he chose--have been transformed and largely enriched by caring for their high-needs children. These children are marginalized by society, classified traditionally as ill and abnormal, and shunned; in the cases of those who are deaf or homosexual, they were forced to conform to mainstream strictures. A seasoned journalist and LGBT activist, Solomon relies on anecdotes to convey the herculean tasks facing parents and caregivers of special-needs children because "stories acknowledge chaos," and he takes great pains to probe the dark side of parental despair and anger, as well as ennobling efforts of resilience and strength. Sifting through arguments about nature versus nurture, Solomon finds some startling moments of discovery, for example, among Deaf activists who ferociously cling to their marginality, parents of children with Down syndrome who express their children's infinite "mystery and beauty," and the truculent compassion of Dylan Klebold's parents, 10 years after the Columbine High School shootings. Solomon's own trials of feeling marginalized as gay, dyslexic, and depressive, while still yearning to be a father, frame these affectingly rendered real tales about bravely playing the cards one's dealt. (Nov.)

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