"Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity"

Nov 19, 2013

Our guest is author and journalist Andrew Solomon, whose hefty, far-reaching, and award-winning book, "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity," was one of the most widely acclaimed works of nonfiction to be published last year. The book has just appeared in paperback; Solomon joins us today by phone. As was noted of this book, about a year ago, when it was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month: "Anyone who's ever said (or heard, or thought) the adage 'chip off the old block' might burrow into Andrew Solomon's tome about the ways in which children are different from their parents --- and what such differences do to our conventional ideas about family. Ruminative, personal, and reportorial all at once, Solomon --- who won a National Book Award for his treatise on depression, 'The Noonday Demon' --- begins by describing his own experience as the gay son of heterosexual parents, then goes on to investigate the worlds of deaf children of hearing parents, dwarves born into 'normal' families, and so on. His observations and conclusions are complex and not easily summarized, with one exception: The chapter on children of law-abiding parents who become criminals. Solomon rightly points out that this is a very different situation indeed: 'To be or produce a schizophrenic...is generally deemed a misfortune,' he writes. 'To...produce a criminal is often deemed a failure.' Still, parents must cope with or not, accept or not, the deeds or behaviors or syndromes of their offspring. How they do or do not do that makes for fascinating and disturbing reading." And further, as was noted in a starred review of 'Far From the Tree' in Booklist: "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."