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Far From the Tree Book Discussion

Illustration of a pile of 5 books

This summer, members of the committee are reading Andrew Solomon’s book, Far From the Tree – How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another…our Differences Unite Us. Join us to for an informal discussion.

For a quick introduction to Andrew Solomon, watch his Ted Talk, Love, no matter what.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Emily fought for and embraced her son Jason—against doctors’ advice—when he was born with Down syndrome. Even still, Emily says, “It was letting go of a dream when I realized that Jason was gonna be who he is.” What were your dreams for the children in your life? What dreams have you had to let go of in order to love the people they actually are? Discuss mourning the loss of a dream.
  2. Andrew attributes the culture shift of the last forty years for transforming the idea of homosexuality as an illness to gayness as an identity. He reflects, “Having lived to see my supposed defect come to be celebrated, I wondered whether defectiveness itself might be all a matter of perspective.” What “defects” or “deficits” are reinforced in our communities? What would be gained (or lost) if these “deficits” were seen by the larger culture as something to be celebrated?
  3. Jason Kingsley, who has Down syndrome, wrote, “Think of your abilities, not your disability.” Analyze his statement. How does it relate to the idea of using a phrase like “person with deafness” rather than “a deaf person?”
  4. Leah and Joe are two little people who are trying to conceive a baby. Whether or not the baby will be born with a disability is something that the doctors talk a lot about, Joe says, as if they see normality as the end goal. Is normality something you want for the children in your life? What do you see as the end goal of child-rearing?
  5. Prodigies and other high-IQ students encounter resentment from their peers to the point where they sometimes try to “conform to the norms of less gifted children.” The author observes, “A bias against excellence accompanied our American pursuit of equality.” Have you seen this in your surroundings? Why are bright kids resented? Does this apply to other areas, such as sports?
  6. The reactions toward a transgender child can be vicious, as seen with Anne O’Hara’s family, who received threats and whose dog was killed. Speculate on why her neighbors were so angry and violent. What other negative reactions are seen in this chapter? Where else in society is there such a level of hatred toward people in certain groups? What excuses do people find, in religion and elsewhere, for their violence toward “others”?
  7. Find examples in the book of parents who felt their lives had been enriched by having a child who fell far from the tree. What did they find rewarding about their experience? What did they learn from it? In what ways have their child and the child’s condition changed the parents? And is “finding meaning” a choice for them?
  8. “I hate the loss of diversity in the world,” writes the author. What are benefits of having a diverse world? Which chapters show diversity being celebrated, and why? Which don’t, and why?
  9. How do the words of the poet Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free,” apply to this book? How do they apply to other social issues and to the world as you know it? What is the author hoping to convey about all of us fighting for all the rest of us?
  10. The author opens the book with a chapter called “Son” and closes with one called “Father”. What do the chapters have in common? How do the chapters and their contents serve to frame the book and its thesis? How did Solomon’s passage from being the gay son of straight parents to being a parent himself change his point of view?

Discussion questions adapted from:




July 8, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 10:30 am


Seward Park
375 W. Elm St.
Chicago, IL 60610 United States

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