Book Event: Far From the Tree

Noonday Demon author Andrew Solomon talks about his new book.

  • Venue: Berkeley Arts & Lectures @ Hillside Club
  • Date: 7:30 pm on November 29, 2012

From Andrew Solomon, the National Book Award winning author of The Noonday Demon (2001), comes Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which Scribner will publish on November 13. Culled from 10 years of research, and 40,000 pages of interview transcripts from conversations with more than 250 families across virtually all 50 states, Far From the Tree examines extreme versions of the profound difference that all parents and children feel from one another.

Solomon opens Far From the Tree with an autobiographical chapter detailing his experience as the gay son of straight parents. At the time of his youth, gayness was still considered an illness—an illness that nevertheless became a cornerstone of his identity. As he tells us, illness describes something biological; identity is a word for something social. We use the word illness when we wish to disparage a way of being, and identity when we wish to celebrate the same way of being. This consideration of the tenuous balance between illness, identity, and the parent-child dynamic led to his research on 10 different kinds of exceptional children: deaf children, children with dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, multiple severe disabilities, or prodigious genius; schizophrenic children; children conceived in rape; children who commit serious crimes; and children who identify as transgender.

Solomon tells stories of individuals who have been heartbreakingly tragic victims of intense prejudices—but also stories of parents who have embraced their children’s differences and tried to alter the world’s understanding of their conditions.

While each of the categories he explores is narrow, together they compose an aggregate of millions whose struggles toward integrated identity are heightened versions of a universal experience. The courageous and profoundly affirming stories of many of these families point a way for all of us to expand our definition of the human family.

This talk, co-sponsored by the Greater Good Science Center, will happen at 7:30 pm on November 29 at the Hillside Club. Tickets $12 ($7 students, OLLI, and Hillside members) in advance only at Brown Paper Tickets online or 800-838-3006; $15 at the door (all).

Andrew Solomon earned a BA and MA at Jesus College, Cambridge.  He is the author of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, A Stone Boat, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, winner of fourteen national awards, including the 2001 National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a New York Times bestseller, now published in twenty-two languages. He lives in New York and London with his husband and children.