8

Far From the Tree

After reviewing my Books Read 2012 list, I told myself that in 2013 I would read more non-fiction. I love non-fiction – history, biographies, culture – I love it all. But for some reason, there wasn’t a lot of it in 2012 (for me).

Nearly 2 months into 2013 and I’m off to a good start: Onward, Lady Almina and At Home have already been added to my Books Read 2013 list.

But the one I was most looking forward to reading was Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.

I first read about this book on the Huffington Post’s Book section. When I was next in the bookstore I made a point of searching it out, read the first 2 lines and knew I had to have it. But it was Christmas time and any book hoarder will know, you can’t buy yourself books at that time of year. Far too risky. So I waited.

Good things come to those who wait – I got a whole bunch of book gift cards for Christmas and Far From the Tree was the first book I ran out to buy.

Andrew Solomon started writing this book as a way to work through his own complicated relationship with his parents. He is gay and it was always something that separated him from his parents in a negative way, something that he struggled with for a very long time. As a way of working through this relationship he decided to research how otherness affects the relationship between parents and children. He interviewed families of children who are deaf, dwarfs, have Down syndrome, are Autistic, Schizophrenic, commit crimes, are a product of rape, have severe mental and physical disabilities, or are Transgendered.

The central theme of his research seemed to be the decisions surrounding acceptance or trying to find a cure. For example people that have Down syndrome and a lot of their families, don’t think of Down syndrome as something that needs a cure – it is just a different way of being. Other families wish that there was a cure, or are very open about the fact that had they known before, they would have terminated the pregnancy. Each in their own way struggle with the acceptance of difference and/or the wish that things were different.

This book is heavy and if you read it in public, be warned that there is a high possibility of you crying in front of strangers. The chapter about children conceived in rape was particularly difficult to get through. But there are also lots of stories that are inspiring, like the parents that embrace their transgendered children despite the fact that in a lot of communities this is actually a very dangerous thing to do (what’s that about anyway? They are children).

I loved this book. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and I know at least one person that has bought it for herself and I’m working on a second person. She won’t be a hard sell I don’t think.

I think that this book is an eye opener. A reminder to celebrate our differences, even the ones that terrify us.