An extraordinary read or listen, Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree is proof positive that what matters most when raising children with differences is a parent’s love. In this fact-filled, best-selling, award-winning book, Solomon tells the intimate stories of families dealing with children who have deafness, dwarfism, Down Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, or who are prodigies, criminals, transgender, or conceived by rape.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read certain chapters because the topics made me uncomfortable at first. But reading them opened my eyes to situations I knew little about and expanded my empathy.
Solomon mixes stories of abundant tenderness with a well-documented historical perspective of American society’s changing attitudes.
- In the early 1900s, for example, words like “idiot,” “imbecile,” and “moron” were medical terms used to classify individuals with a wide range of differences.
- In a 1927 Supreme Court decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in favor of forced sterilization to “prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”
- As recent as 1968, ethicist Joseph Fletcher wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that “a Down’s is not a person.”
It reminds us that the change of heart in this country is a modern-day phenomenon. It began in JFK’s presidency and peaked with the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which triggered the inclusion movement.
We’ve come a long way, but not far or fast enough.
As one mom of two autistic children told Solomon, “Having advocated and fought for these kids now for 19 years, my entire personality has changed. …You don’t cross me. I have to do what I have to do, and I’m going to get what I want. I never was like this before.”
Mother’s love changes you.
“This book’s conundrum,” according to Solomon, “is that most of the families described here have ended up grateful for the experiences they would have done anything to avoid.“
Far From the Tree is an uplifting collection of love stories that have made all the difference.