Read this review in The New Yorker, it sounds like a challenging but absolutely fascinating book.
The story of Megan, Michael, and their unexpected family life is one of many in Andrew Solomon’s “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity” (Scribner). Solomon, an assiduous journalist with an essayistic bent, is fascinated by the paradoxes of procreation: how do you nurture a child who may be unlike anything you’ve encountered before? Most people who consider themselves black, say, or Jewish, have parents who do, too. Solomon calls this “vertical identity,” because it flows naturally down the generations. It’s a conduit through which the benefits of shared experience—empathy, hindsight, a sense of who you are—can travel. But what if, like Jacob, you are a deaf child with hearing parents? What if you’re a dwarf with parents of normal proportions? These identities are “horizontal”: there’s a rupture between the child’s life and the parents’ experiences. They seem to challenge many premises of family and interrupt the basic continuity that it presumes.Solomon is in many ways the perfect writer for the subject—nuanced, thorough, humane, and a gifted stylist—and, trying to get to the root of this conflict, he pushes horizontal identity as far as it will go. He includes chapters not only on deafness and dwarfism but on Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disability, early genius, conception through rape, criminal behavior, and transgender life. He talks with more than three hundred families; interviews those around them; and reads extensively about the conditions they face. When bonds within families begin to fray, he seeks to understand what went wrong.