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Far from the Tree: Young Adult Edition --- How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us

Review

Far from the Tree: Young Adult Edition --- How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us

If you loved WONDER BY R.J. Palacio or BECOMING NICOLE: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt, pick up FAR FROM THE TREE by Andrew Solomon.

FAR FROM THE TREE follows the lives of families with children who were born with unique attributes or under unique circumstances. Author Andrew Solomon speaks with children who are navigating extreme differences such as deafness, dwarfism, autism, transgenderism and more. There is a wide range of attributes and circumstances covered, but Solomon gives special care and detail to each one. He particularly notes that yes, these traits may pose challenges, but they also form the identity of these children and should be met with love, not prejudice. The author has a personal connection to this book as he grew up both dyslexic and gay, and had to deal with a lack of family support for the latter trait.

“There’s an old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, meaning children tend to be like their parents. The children in this book are apples that have fallen elsewhere -- some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world,” pg.9

"This book is a wonderful creation, both saddening and heart-warming....Five stars easily."

He makes a distinction between “horizontal” and “vertical” conditions and identities. Horizontal being “strange and alien” to parents while “vertical” is what society (in this case, parents) perceives to be normal. Throughout the book, he explores the meaning of these terms and addresses how the communities which represent these “horizontal” traits grow to understand them. Solomon specifically discusses contentious topics within these groups and offers an informative perspective on these debates. For example, within the deaf community, some activists fight for deafness not to be seen as a deafness, but a full identity. Solomon points out the dangers in this (would result in the loss of ADA protections and rights to accommodations in hospitals and courtrooms), but also points out how this belief is valid (deafness shouldn’t be seen as a curse or a burden, it’s just a different way of going about life that individuals learn to adapt to).

The format of the book consists of a series of interviews with parents and children, and weaves research and data through these narratives. Each chapter is labeled for the unique attribute or circumstance being discussed. However, Solomon closes the book with a chapter labeled “Father.” He discusses how he wrote the book to forgive his parents, but ended up becoming a parent himself. Through this process (writing the book and parenting), he learned more about himself and began to understand the experiences he went through as a child. This impactful last chapter is followed by acknowledgements, notes, permissions and an extensive index.

In terms of visual illustrations, the book does not feature any. However, the vividness of the stories he tells paints a good enough image for the reader. In addition, the cover of this book is aesthetically pleasing both in font and design.

What makes this book “young adult” and how does it differentiate from the adult version? It’s a matter of word count. Solomon has simply shortened the text and moved the dense footnotes and bibliography sections online. Although, there is a debate amongst writers about whether this method sanitizes the message for readers, in the case of FAR FROM THE TREE, this does not occur. This book is a wonderful creation, both saddening and heart-warming.

This book can be perfectly summarized with the quote which opens it.

“Will it come like a change in the weather? Will its greeting be courteous or rough? Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love.” - W.H. Auden, “O Tell Me the Truth About Love”

Five stars easily. If you enjoy this book, watch the documentary which was released July 20th of this year. Variety called the film “valuable resource for parents with children who don't fit society's narrow definition of 'normal.'” I would argue that the book and the film are also valuable resources for the children who are underrepresented and often don’t see their experiences being acknowledged.

Reviewed by Melat E., Teen Board Member on September 6, 2018

Far from the Tree: Young Adult Edition --- How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us
by Andrew Solomon and Laurie Calkhoven

  • Publication Date: July 3, 2018
  • Genres: Family, Family Life, Nonfiction, Social Issues
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1481440918
  • ISBN-13: 9781481440912