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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.
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policy makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Andrew Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations -- around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness. With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, award-winning author Solomon takes readers on a journey of incom-parable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets. His contribution to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition is truly stunning.
First published in The New Yorker, "Solomon tells the story of Peter Lanza, the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooter. Read it--it's moving, brave and just profoundly human and sad....There aren't any answers. And that's what makes this all so impossible, and Solomon's journalism so essential" (Salon.com). "Both parents loved Adam. Neither parent imagined or wanted their child's horrific end. This is why what Peter Lanza did by sharing his story with Andrew Solomon is so important. Lanza's story fills important gaps in our understanding of how a beloved child became a killer--and reminds us as a society that we have an obligation to help families and children before they find themselves on irreversible paths of violence" (Time).
The debut novel, first published nearly twenty years ago, from the National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression and Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity--a luminous and moving evocation of the love between a son and his mother.Harry, an internationally celebrated concert pianist, arrives in Paris to confront his glamorous mother about his homosexuality. Instead, he discovers that she is terminally ill. In an attempt to escape his feelings of guilt and depression over the prospect of her death, he embarks on a series of intense love affairs--one with a longtime female friend--that force him to question his sexual identity. But as time runs out and tragedy looms closer, it is the relationship between Harry and his mother that emerges in all its stark simplicity and purity. Part eulogy and part confession, A Stone Boat is "a shimmering remembrance of things past and a meditation on love and death...evoking with sensitivity and compassion the severing of a deeply rooted, complex relationship" (The New York Times Book Review).