Andrew Solomon’s Breathtaking “Far From The Tree” An Unrivaled Account Of Parenting Black Sheep Kids

by • November 23, 2012 • Books, Charlie Rose, FEELguide Hero, Health, Inspiration, LGBT, Neuroscience, Psychology, Science, SocietyComments (0)6021

The first time I learned of National Book Award-winning author Andrew Solomon was from his appearance on Charlie Rose’s Brain Series special focusing on depression.  Solomon, a longtime sufferer of the disorder, shared his personal story of his relationship with depression and how he learned to get a grip on it.  If you have not seen it you absolutely must take the time to watch it in the YouTube video below.  The way in which Andrew describes his journey through that experience is the most fascinating and compelling I have ever seen. Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression won the 2001 National Book Award, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and was included in The Times of London’s list of one hundred best books of the decade.

For his latest book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity Andrew was inspired by his own feelings of having been a disaffected child growing up gay in the upper West Side to uber-wealthy parents who were deeply uncomfortable with his sexuality, and a youth spent under the crushing weight of feeling like he was the only kid going through life feeling so painfully different than everyone else around him.  As Goodreads notes: “A decade in the writing … ‘Far from the Tree’ 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.”

In her review for The New York Times Julie Myerson writes: “This is a passionate and affecting work that will shake up your preconceptions and leave you in a better place. It’s a book everyone should read and, although everyone won’t (at a hefty 700 pages of text, with more than 100 pages of notes, it’s no pocket guide), there’s no one who wouldn’t be a more imaginative and understanding parent — or human being — for having done so.  As a psycho-sociological study, it’s important and unrivaled; no one has ever collated this amount of evidence before. And even though the book might have benefited from occasional tightening, it still makes for breathtaking reading — a vivid and gripping account of who we are right now, and what exactly happens when we try to make more of ourselves.”  You can listen to a New York Times podcast interview with Andrew Solomon by visiting NYTimes.com, read his interview with MPR NEWS, and purchase your own copy of Far From The Tree on Amazon.

Solomon is the oldest son of Howard Solomon, Chairman of pharmaceutical manufacturer Forest Laboratories, and Carolyn Bower Solomon.  Solomon described the experience of being present at his mother’s planned suicide at the end of a long battle with ovarian cancer in an article for The New Yorker;  in a fictionalized account in his novel, A Stone Boat; and again in The Noonday Demon. Solomon’s subsequent depression, eventually managed with psychotherapy and antidepressant medications, inspired his father to secure FDA approval to market citalopram (Celexa) in the United States.

Born and raised in New York City, as an adult Solomon became a dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom. He and journalist John Habich were joined in an official civil partnership ceremony on June 30, 2007, at Althorp, the Spencer family estate and childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales (to see an amazing collection of photos and video of Andrew and John’s wedding CLICK HERE).  The couple married again on July 19, 2009, the eighth anniversary of their meeting, in Connecticut, so that their marriage would be legally recognized in the state of New York.  

In 2003, Solomon and longtime friend Blaine Smith decided to have a child together; their daughter, Carolyn Blaine Smith Solomon, was born in November 2007.  Mother and child live in Texas.  A son, George Charles Habich Solomon, was born in April 2009, and lives in New York with Solomon and Habich, his adoptive father.  Mr. Habich is also biological father of two children, Oliver and Lucy, born to lesbian friends who live in Minneapolis. The development of this composite family was the subject of a feature article by Solomon published in Newsweek in January 2011.

For more amazingness from Andrew Solomon be sure to follow him on Twitter, check out his YouTube videos, and visit his archive at The New Yorker.  In honor of Andrew’s staggering body of work and championing of those of us who feel like we came from a different mould he is my newest FEELguide Hero.

Sources: Towleroad, The New York Times, Goodreads, The Star, MPR NEWSWikipedia

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