Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Far From the Tree

We are finding time to read, and I love when I catch my children reading (when they don't have to)!


Reading is such an important part of who I am, that of course I dream of my own children growing up to be big readers and that someday I'll have mother-son or mother-daughter book clubs with them and they'll come visit me when I'm old and we'll talk about what we've been reading.


But what if they grow up to not like to read?  What if they naturally are sports fans, or something else that I don't really understand and wouldn't naturally be able to relate to?  How could I learn to relate to the people they really are, rather than the expected copies of myself I was probably hoping for?

This is a very minor example of the sort of parental expectation --> disorientation --> reorientation that author Andrew Solomon exhaustively investigates in his latest book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.


It is a HUGE book, but really really don't let that discourage you.  Solomon's writing is beautiful, and his story of identities - "vertical" that are inherited from parents and "horizontal" that are different from the family and require finding a community of peers to establish identity - and of the power of love to reach across difference was incredibly powerful.

Solomon interviewed parents: parents of children with autism, dwarfism, deafness, conceived in rape, prodigies, and more.  What he found was that the challenge of parenting a child with special needs can deepen and enrich life.  He found stories of incredible joy and love in the face of what many would find a horrible tragedy.  And his descriptions of different identities changed my understanding of what it means to have a disability - for instance several people made comments such as "if everyone could fly, not flying would be a disability", and I see better some of the social construction of disability.

But what is brilliant about Solomon's book is that he doesn't just paint the rosy happy picture.  It's complicated, without easy answers or clear paths to follow, and what works for one family or one person doesn't for another.  It's a truly human story he tells.

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