In his latest book, “Far From the Tree,” author Andrew Solomon examines the lives of parents with children who are “different” — kids with conditions like deafness or autism, for example. Although many parents with exceptional children feel they won’t be able to meet the challenge, Solomon finds a pattern: despite the difficulties, such parents frequently report being unexpectedly enriched by the experience. We’ll talk to Solomon about the public response to the book, which won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction, among many other awards.

Andrew Solomon, journalist and author of "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity"

  • Elisabeth Prueitt

    I am the mother of a child born with cerebral palsy. The way that her birth has changed me is that there was never a moment’s hesitation that my professional life would take a back seat to helping her overcome all of the challenges that face her – physical, of course (we have traveled the world for physical therapies), but addressing issues of self-esteem and self-confidence are paramount to anyone who is born different, and I think often get overlooked since the actual disability or “different-ness” is central and can be so daunting to a parent who has no experience in this realm (which is almost everyone). We also never imagined that we would in any way make her feel isolated due to her disability. My husband and I are also people who are in the media as we are authors and own a bakery and restaurant in San Francisco. She has not only changed my husband and myself, but our employees too – I will often bring our daughter to work where our employees have known
    her since she was an infant and interact with her as with any child. She is in Quaker school where she is the only child in a K-8 school with a physical disability, and will have studied, played with and interacted with potentially hundreds of kids by the time she graduates – kids who would never have met and befriended a peer at school who is physically different. To put it simply, empathy has deeply changed me, our families, and our friends, and this is an incredible thing for a six year-old to influence.

    Liz Prueitt, Tartine Bakery

  • Doug

    As a librarian, I work every day with individuals who have “horizontal” identities, most with some type of intellectual challenge, but also children and teens who are LGBTQ, or those with extreme physical impairment. I find most to be incredibly curious and driven to learn, simply because they must discover their own identity rather than having it handed them on a platter. Further, because we aid in their quest to discover themselves, I find this group are the most pleasant, agreeable, and interesting people I work with. I am constantly enriched by working with those who fall “far from the tree.”

  • Colleen Shelly

    Dear Mr Solomon,
    I read noonday demon because I know Al Alverez who wrote a prologue and I got a lot of strength from the book. I am about 1/2 way through Far from the tree and I am taking it slow because it is so thought provoking.
    I have had depression all my life and then self medication led to substance abuse. When I had a suicide attempt in high school my parents kept it very quiet out of shame perhaps. Now in my 40s, I’ve learned that my mother attempted to kill herself as a teen and I wish that she had shared that with me when I was a teen. I thought that I was far from her tree and now I find that we are actually more alike than she treated me growing up.
    Interesting stuff, thank you profusely for sharing your insights and knowledge.

  • Help Each Other Out

    Thank you for opening up the world of “compassion” in real, TANGIBLE ways.

  • As a dyslexic and someone who knows the joys and challenges of raising a child with multiple disabilities, I really enjoyed this interview. I hope that in the future NPR will do more to look at rates and roles for people with disabilities (PWDs) in families, jobs, movies and media. According to the U.S. census, PWDs make up 18.6% of the population. However, according to a GLAAD study PWDs make up about 1% of the characters in scripted TV shows. And movies? There is not data yet.

    It is vitally important to get images of people with disabilities (PWDs) into books and the
    media — the news, TV shows and movies. Why? Consider this: 70% of
    working-age Americans with disabilities don’t have jobs, even though most of
    them want to work. That compares to 28% of Americans without disabilities who
    don’t have jobs. This disparity has resulted in extremely high levels of
    poverty, isolation and financial dependency for Americans with disabilities,
    costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year in government benefits.

    In the new Michael J. Fox Show, the popular actor portrays a reporter with Parkinson’s who re-enters the workforce. Because Fox is already so well-liked and talented, the disability community harbors high hopes that viewers will not only root for him, but will also absorb and accept the fact that people with disabilities can succeed in the workplace. We need more books like this one with Andrew Solomon, along with TV and movie and coverage that also offer positive images of people with disabilities. What we see impacts how we think. And what we think impacts how we act. And we need to be inclusive of ALL people — all colors, sexual orientations, abilities, races, religions and more.

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