A Writer Who Embraces Difference

The author Andrew Solomon explains how “Far From the Tree,” his new book, developed from his own experiences as a child and a parent.

Comments: 24

  1. Bravo Mr. Solomon! I've ordered this wonderful book and notified the 100 people in my support group - New Directions for people and families with depression, bipolar, schizoaffective disorder - how informative and compassionate it is. www.newdirectionssupport.org

  2. I have thought the same thing many, many times --- Have always thought that people have so much more in common than they think. My saying has always been --- "You don't get to pick" what you get. We all have things that we think we'd have done differently, wished were different but magically, things always come full circle as they should. I can't wait to read this -- it seems that the perception and feelings of empathy and love of the author are there for the sharing. Thanks!

  3. No one ever quite gets the child s/he expects, but some folks get time to work out what turn out to be little kinks in their expectations. The parents and children mentioned here do not have that luxury.

    I love how this book finds commonality in such a widely various set of parents and kids. It can only promote better understanding across many kinds of issues.

    I will send this post to a couple of groups I belong to that deal with brain anomalies.

  4. Little kinks? My own daughter has hearing problems, and I wouldn't call them a little kink. I can't even imagine what some of these folks are experiencing raising kids with dramatic, profound differences.

  5. Susana, I think that that was Susan's point - that those of us with 'normal' children (i.e., those without a diagnosable or noticeable difference) have the luxury of gradually adapting to the personalities and foibles of our children. Those parents of children with more extreme challenges do not have that luxury.

  6. I'm longing to read this book. As a mother with a special needs adult daughter I have always felt isolated from other mothers in ways that are just too hard to explain, so I don't bother. It certainly drove me to drink for a few years. Even nowadays, the judgments of others, based on ignorance, are especially hard to bear, like when my daughter berates me in public, and rants about some perceived injustice after a discreet reminder from me about being patient in a grocery line or doctor's office when she's acting out her boredom and frustration. Although I have kept in touch with a handful of other parents from my daughter's school days, we live far apart and we all worry about the future in quite the same ways "normal" parents don't have to. It's always good to know there are others like us in the world, which is a primary longing for humans. Thank you to Andrew Solomon for rolling the stone away from a forgotten cave where so many of us have huddled for years.

  7. It's pretty weird that you spend so much space on his wealth without identifying its source. Presumably it's not just from his previous book.

  8. I heard the author on Fresh Air and he eloquently stated that if some angel were to appear and offer to replace his children with "perfect children" free from flaws he (like all other parents) would curse the angel as a demon and refuse to change their children. I think this sentiment sums up how parents feel about their children- "they're not perfect, but they're mine".

  9. When people adopt, we are asked do we want a boy or a girl, as if that means something about how the child will turn out. I always questioned what a parent's real expectations would be. What would happen if their boy loved books above all else and their girl lived for sports alone. I am glad to see differences celebrated and possibly even expected.

  10. As the wife, lover, and dearest friend of a deaf man, this is a book i am very much looking forward to getting my hands on! Thank you, Mr Solomon for "suffering" through the process of writing this.....I feel you pain and passion even in this article! Bless you and your family.

  11. I would like to order this book for my niece. Her son has many problems and has threatened suicide many time. He has been "hospitalized" but to no avail. He even went through a phase of stealing from others. As a young boy he had seizures, and I did notice his behavior was inappropriate for someone his age, The family thought he would "grow out of it"/ I had hoped the school would notice and recommenced services, but I later found out her district turns their back on students that "are different". Then he developed tics and was diagnosed with Tourettes at the age of 14 along with other issues like OCD. Again, no help from the school. The other students made fun of his tics. And school became unbearable.

    Studies show that kids with Tourettes do well in sports and other activities, yet his high school wouldn't let him play basketball even though his skills were better than others that were chosen. He was suspended a few times because of his outbursts even though he has an IEP. My niece has tried different doctors, support groups, etc. Now her son is 18 and out of school, and her life and the lives of her family are constantly turned upside down. It has put her into a deep depression from all the missed days from work to bring in back and forth from emergency rooms that she lost her job and cannot find a new one. I am more worried for her now than him.

    I will buy this book for her because she feels so alone and hopeless.

  12. I applaud Mr. Solomon for his efforts to bring the difficulties these parents face and the various ways they cope and often thrive in this important book.

    I'm not sure any of my articles or video would be of helpful to parents who are dealing with these issure, but they are available at:
    http://www.kellybear.com/ParentTips.html

  13. Maybe it's just my misperception, but it seems to me that over the last 10-20 years -- the new American Age of Affluence -- that an unholy amount of concern has been expended on "building the perfect child." By "perfect" we mean: fully socialized, fully "educated" (if you want to call college an "education," be my guest), fully "healthy" to the point where even quiet and shy children are given all sorts of fancy new diagnoses and labels to deal with, much less children with far more serious "abnormalities." The more affluent the parents are, the more they worry about their children as projects who need to conform to some shining ideal - or else they haven't done their job right and their children will live in vans down by the river. The relentless pursuit of "health" and perfectionism abounds, even if the parents aren't punishing their children by whacking them with a hairbrush like Tiger Mothers do.

    All this book does, is talk about the reality of parenting as it has always existed. We could all see ourselves and our children and our parents in this book, even if we don't struggle with the specific situations. Parents of these children have practical reasons for making decisions (like the girl with dwarfism whose arms are too short to wipe herself?), not vague "keeping up with the Joneses" reasons that the experts say they should care about.

  14. I have the book and I am going through it slowly, savoring Mr. Solomon's remarkable insights and exquisite writing. I can assure you all that the reviews are accurate--the book more than lives up to my expectations.

  15. Perhaps this is a good time for a re-reading of James Hillman's amazing book The Soul's Code (1996), as it serves as a companion piece for Mr. Solomon's new book. It posits that we all have a calling, his "acorn" theory, (the oak already resides in the acorn) something invisible yet true to the heart of who each of us is. It's beyond how our parents treat us, it's there from the beginning. Works that foster acceptance and understanding and push outwards our 'thought' boundaries that things are only one way are in their own way, miraculous.

  16. I'd like Mr. Solomon's next book to be about children of incarcerated parents. I was one, (18 years) and I try to be of help to adults who work with these children. Unlike those he describes in the current book, these children were neither born with their disability nor did they, in any way, make decisions that brought it on. But the condition is very like PTSD and the community should be taking some respondibility for the fallout from the punishment of the parent.

  17. The problem shouldn't be about how to deal, with children who are "different" so much as questioning why the definition of "normal" seems to get narrower every year.

  18. I applaud Solomon, love him really! And I am thrilled to have this book. (I have cerebral palsy and am a poet and disability activist). I do have many disagreements with the book which I will just list briefly.

    Solomon gives a voice (i.e. direct quotes from the children in the trans chapter but NONE from the children with disabilities. If he has given no quotes from any children, this would be stylist choice, but with quotes from so, not others, reads as ableism.

    Solomon's portrayal of cerebral palsy is not extensive enough. . People with CP despite physical impairments, are often brilliant and capable of their own language. I am writing a biography of the poet Eigner who could not feed or toilet himself but spent days reading Wittgenstein.

    Finally, Solomon is repeating stuff that disabilitiy activist's have been writing for years. Amongst these are Rosemarie Garland, Lennard Davis, Jim Ferris, Ed Roberts, Simi Lipton and others - in addition to the collection Beauty is a Verb: the New Disability Poets that I edited with Sheila Black and Michael Northe n which extends far beyond poetry to many of the issues AS addresses. AS in fact, uses a quote from one of our authors - the lovely Laura Hershey who passed away two years ago,

    HOWEVER, it is GREAT that people are finally listening. AS did a wonderful job. He uses the right language, deeply understands social construct and is very respectful.

    Jennifer Bartlett

  19. Ditto "You just want to hug him."

  20. This Bizarro-style world will fall of its own dreary, self-absorbed weight.

  21. Having a surrogate bear your child is inhuman.

  22. No it isn't.

  23. My original message was too long...what I mean to say is that I wish disabilities activists were read, taught, and in The Times. As much as I am grateful to Solomon for his work, I wish disability activists could have had this level of exposure. But, better late than never!
    I also have to say, that despite Solomon doesn't give quotes from disabled children in the book, they do have video here: http://vimeo.com/53132329

  24. The notion that having a disabled child is merely like expecting to arrive in Italy but finding yourself in Holland is abhorrent to me. In my own experience, it was a lot more like expecting Helsinki but finding myself in Hell.

    We gradually adapted to our child's needs, and did survive the horrors that awaited us for a couple of decades (things are smoother now, thank God). But I was NOT pleased or gratified the day some idiotic co-worker parroted that tired old line to me.