Revelations to inspire – Live from New York Public Library: Andrew Solomon in conversation with Paul Holdengräber.

           

In his remarkably affecting new book “Far from the Tree,” Andrew Solomon “…reminds us that nothing is more powerful in a child’s development than the love of a parent” (Bill Clinton). In this book, Solomon explores the human condition underlining the uniqueness of the fascinating characters that tell their stories; his exploration goes beyond each of their specific challenges into universally connecting ground, much more so than one would think possible.

 

The book is divided into ten chapters, each of which highlights diverse cultures born in extreme conditions. Remarkably, the sections of the book flow through the characters’ potential for joyous revelation, which they ultimately find at the end of vast, painful struggles to construct their identities while coming to terms with extreme difficulty and difference. 

 

 

Ranging from severe disability to the unique otherworldliness of prodigal talent with such examples as super star pianists Lang Lang and Evgeny Kissin, “Far From the Tree” includes explorations on dwarfism, criminal acts, and transgender identity conflicts. Solomon’s insightful examples and their lively descriptions help the reader realize the possibility of coming to grips with even the most extraordinary conditions, in the light of parental and communal love and acceptance. Rather prescribing the impossible, Solomon works to create awareness, constructing a positive vision of understanding and acceptance with ease and grace.  He builds a world in which it becomes feasible to celebrate one’s differences rather than dwell on hardships that sometimes seem overwhelmingly impossible to hurdle.

At a motivating introduction at the New York Public Library this Sunday, both host Paul Holdengräber and the author agreed that one key ingredient to understanding this book is to acknowledge that it is about “maturity.”

Finding “strength in adversity” is the ultimate life-affirming message of the book, which the author based on his own personal struggles with homosexuality and depression.  The book’s enriching, meaningful purpose becomes clear as Solomon’s ‘anti-heroes’ transform with the help of their inner strength, and unremitting love that bears the secrets of true catharsis.

 

Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist n LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts.

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