Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 29, 2014.
Andrew Solomon drew on 40,000 pages of interview transcripts with more than 300 families to write his book Far From the Tree, which tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. The ordinary parents Solomon interviewed faced extreme challenges: deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, or who are transgender. What he found is that it’s diversity that unites us all. The experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love. As he listened to his subjects’ courageous and affirming stories, Solomon began a journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.
In this keynote, Solomon will share the fruits of his research into Far From the Tree, which was named one of the 10 best books of 2012 by The New York Times and also won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award, among others. He will explain how he learned from parents of exceptional children that generosity, acceptance, and tolerance can prevail, that love can transcend every prejudice, and that by embracing the differences between us, we expand our definition of what it is to be human.