Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Subtitled: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.

I had been keen to read Far From the Tree when it started getting buzz pre-publication. But I was horrified (HORRIFIED I TELL YOU) that the Kindle price was set at $16.99. I do not pay that, not for anyone (okay, I paid it for just one person). Finally, the price dropped to $9.99 and I hit the purchase button with alacrity and style. And of course the price has dropped further so I wish I had had a bit more patience. And while we’re on the topic of reading it on the Kindle, I kind of freaked out when I saw that it had over 30,000 locations–but thankfully half of those were citations and links.

In the book, Solomon looks at the notion of vertical identity–that which links you with your parents or children–and horizontal identity–that which connects you with those who are like you. For example, if you are hearing parents with a deaf child, your child has a horizontal identity that connects her with the Deaf community and separates her from you. If your child was conceived out of rape, you have an unwanted, traumatic horizontal identity that can compel you to sever your vertical connection to that child. Solomon interviewed families with children who were deaf, autistic, exceptional, and afflicted with Down syndrom or dwarfism or disabilities or mental illness. He talked to mothers who were raped and parents whose children committed crimes. And lastly, he talks with families of transgender children. He bookends the book with reflections on his own experiences as a gay son and a gay father. Solomon talked with so many people and managed to make all of their stories come to life.

As a parent myself, I found so much in this book to ponder on and consider. As a reader, I was captivated by the storytelling and the concepts being presented. I was moved by the love that the parents had for their children, and saddened by all the ways that children can be hurt. And it made me think a lot about my own life story–and inspired me with ideas to complete a novel I’ve been working on for quite some time.

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