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LIVE from the NYPL: Far from the Tree: ANDREW SOLOMON in conversation with Paul Holdengräber
As a gay child of straight parents, Andrew Solomon was born with a sexual orientation that was considered an illness, but it became a cornerstone of his identity. As a journalist reporting on the growth of Deaf Pride in the 1990s, he began to consider illness and identity as a continuum with shifting boundaries. He saw the communities with such "horizontal identities," spurred by the disability-rights movement and empowered by the Internet, were and are challenging the societal expectations and the norms surrounding identity.
Their stories begin in families coping with extreme difference: Dwarfism, Down Syndrome, Autism, multiple severe disabilities, or prodigious genius; children conceived in rape; children who identify as transgender; children who develop schizophrenia or commit serious crimes. The adage asserts that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but in Solomon's explorations, some apples fall on the other side of the world. In Solomon's view, difference is what unites us.
For ten years, after interviewing more than 300 families, Solomon has observed not just how some families learn to deal with exceptional children, but also how they find profound meaning in doing so. In Far From the Tree , Solomon mines the eloquence of those who have somehow summoned hope and courage in the face of heartbreaking prejudice and almost unimaginable physical, mental, and emotional difficulty.