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Far from the Tree:

Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

A New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize for Nonfiction

A 2013 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for LGBT Nonfiction

A 2012 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year

New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2012

A 2012 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction

A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction

A 2012 Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book for Nonfiction

Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”: November 2012

An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2012

From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance—all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Editorial Reviews

“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.”

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

“Far-reaching, original, fascinating—Andrew Solomon’s investigation of many of the most intense challenges that parenthood can bring compels us all to reexamine how we understand human difference. Perhaps the greatest gift of this monumental book, full of facts and full of feelings, is that it constantly makes one think, and think again.”

Philip Gourevitch, National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families

“Andrew Solomon has written a brave and ambitious work, bringing together science, culture and a powerful empathy. Solomon tells us that we have more in common with each other—even with those who seem anything but normal—than we would ever have imagined.”

Malcolm Gladwell, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Far from the Tree is a landmark, revolutionary book. It frames an area of inquiry—difference between parents and children—that many of us have experienced in our own lives without ever considering it as a phenomenon. Andrew Solomon plumbs his topic thoroughly, humanely, and in a compulsively readable style that makes the book as entertaining as it is illuminating.”

Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

“Solomon, a highly original student of human behavior, has written an intellectual history that lays the foundation for a twenty-first century Psychological Bill of Rights. In addition to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on the basis of race and religion, this Bill extends inalienable rights of psychological acceptance to people on the basis of their identity. He provides us with an unrivalled educational experience about identity groups in our society, an experience that is filled with insight, empathy, and intelligence. We also discover the redefining, self-restructuring nature that caring for a child produces in parents, no matter how unusual or disabled the child is. Reading Far from the Tree is a mind-opening experience.”

Eric Kandel, author of The Age of Insight and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Far from the Tree is fundamentally about the bonds and burdens of family, and it’s a huge valentine to those who embrace the challenge of raising children who are in some way not what they had hoped for.”

Elle

“Profoundly moving…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.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Years of interviews with families and their unique children culminate in this compassionate compendium…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.”

Booklist (starred review)

“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 Reviews (starred review)

“Ruminative, personal, and reportorial all at once.”

Amazon.com, editorial review

Author Biography

Andrew Solomon is the New York Times bestselling author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of fourteen national awards, including the National Book Award. He is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell University and special advisor on LGBT affairs to the Yale School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry.

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Reader Biography

Andrew Solomon is the New York Times bestselling author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of fourteen national awards, including the National Book Award. He is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell University and special advisor on LGBT affairs to the Yale School of Medicine’s department of psychiatry.

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