Monday, June 30, 2014

Far From The Tree - A Must-Read NonFiction Book For Parents (And maybe everyone else, too.)

"Anyone with an open heart should know that the world would have ended long ago without the translators who convey male and female meanings across gender's fierce boundaries. It may be a recent phenomenon for that to be an identity, but what has changed is the characterization of such people -- not their eternal merit, not their uncanny, necessary splendor."
- Andrew Solomon

That's from pg. 675 of "Far From The Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity" - Andrew Solomon's brilliant (and epic) nonfiction book about how in most families, a child's identity is vertical - if your parents are Japanese, and you're Japanese, you share that identity and they can help you understand what it is to be Japanese. Hence, the expression, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

But sometimes, the apple DOES fall far from the tree: My parents are straight, and I'm gay. To understand and claim what being gay meant for my identity, I needed to go outside of my family, to a horizontal identity community.

Andrew Solomon, who is gay and dyslexic and suffers from depression himself, started to see parallels between the journeys of parents and their children who had horizontal identities.

At one point, he writes of being gay:
"My own recovery has been from the perception of illness."
and that, in him, his parents had a child who spoke a language they'd never thought of studying.

The book explores deaf children of hearing parents, little people born to normative-sized parents, children with Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Disability, Prodigies, Children of rape, children who commit crimes, and transgender children -- exploring the parallels and insights their experiences collectively offer as to what identity is and how families come to love and accept and appreciate the gifts of children and circumstances they would never have chosen.

Over ten years, Andrew interviewed more than 300 families for the book and the result is brilliant - a must-read for every parent on the planet (and maybe everyone who has been parented, too.)

1 comment:

Heather said...

This is an excellent recommendation and I agree that it is a must read! The idea of horizontal identities helped me to understand all three of my kids a bit better. It was a concrete image for what often feels difficult to explain.