A Phenomenal New Book

Yes, yes, yes. I am alive and I am still blogging. And I think I will catch up soon on the blogs that never happened. But I had to get this one done today: for anyone looking for a last minute gift for Christmas and/or for serious folks looking for serious reading, I recommend the new book, which has already made the NY Times best 10 books of 2012, “Far From The Tree” by Andrew Solomon.  Right from page one – page one mind you – where he makes so explicitly clear the profound and difficult truth that “Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger…” I was blown away. Adoption does that, we all agree. Solomon goes deeper and beyond anything I have ever read and says that that is what [all] parenthood is, despite our fantasies otherwise.

In this huge book – I can’t tell how many pages because I am reading it on the Kindle – I am seeing truth after truth after truth. By page 32 (how’d I find that out?), he writes – and he gets it summed up in a nutshell  – what we attempt to train our new adoptive families on, over the course of forty training hours in fourteen weeks:

“….The anger [of the different] is pervasive. ‘Adults responded to my difference by helping me, but some of my schoolmates responded by calling me names,’ wrote Rod Michalko, who is blind. ‘Only much later did I realize that helping and name-calling amounted to the same thing.’ ”

“Arlene Mayerson, an expert in disability rights law,” Solomon continues, “contends that benevolence and good intentions have been among disabled people’s worst enemies throughout history. The able-bodied can be generous narcissists: they eagerly bestow what they feel good about giving without considering how it will be received.”

Generous narcissists?  Without considering how it will be received?  Might that be why the entire child welfare system seems unable to figure out how to really give the most desperate kids what they need to free themselves from the chains of their personal histories? Might it be too much about us – the helpers – feeling good about what we feel, what we believe, what we think, what we do?

I cannot believe what I am reading; I am simply astounded by it.  And it has helped me understand some experiences in my life that I knew were “off” but couldn’t name why. For only one example, I refer all to my posting of July 2, 2012 titled “Can I Help You?”

Merry Christmas to all who will be celebrating on Tuesday.  I hope to be back here in the blogosphere before the new year.





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3 Responses to A Phenomenal New Book

  1. Hey Jack,

    I heard this author interviewed on NPR last weekend – the day after the Connecticut school shootings. It was very timely. And I’ve been telling people about the book too. You’re really getting the word out. I didn’t know it was on the NY Times best books list! That’s good!


  2. Matthew H. says:

    The concept that helping someone may actually be doing that person a disservice was really driven home for me with an interaction I had with a blind man many years ago. He was tapping along with his stick when I stopped him- I was the one who stopped him is worth repeating. Also noteworthy is the fact that I was not in a rush, because you can be sure that if I had somewhere else to be I would have passed the baton, figuratively, to another person. I had a few moments so I asked if he would like help getting to his destination. He quickly responded “no, thank you,” and was on his way.
    I didn’t like his tone. There I was trying to help and he responded as if I were disrespecting him. Sure, I thought, I would have responded in the same way if someone had asked me if I needed help getting to my destination, but that’s because I’m perfectly capable. This guy on the other hand is blind… That’s when I realized the implication of my question: you’re not capable of doing this on your own and I know this because I’m better than you. Damn , the question was disrespectful. Furthermore, I would later learn that the activity of tapping that stick would create a means of navigating the area independently. By helping the man to his destination I would have reinforced his dependence on others.
    Post a scanned version of your cartoon, Jack. I think I finally get it.

  3. maryann cusumano says:

    Just got my copy, on page 10; wow. You know I read all your recommendations so keep it up. Happy New Year!

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