I’ve read and heard quite a bit about a recent book–Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search For Identity by Andrew Solomon. You can read the blurb from Elliot Bay (that’s what I linked to–it is our wonderful local bookstore) and there is also this excellent review from The Guardian. It’s on my “must read” list, but since it is 976 pages long it might be a while before I get around to it. (That’s starting–finishing will, I fear, take even longer.)
The book is about parents and children–and more particularly families in which the children are exceptional in one way or another. The children have conditions that make them “alien” (his word) to their parents.
What finally sold me on putting the book high up on my “to read” list is this quote from the Guardian review:
If Solomon has a thesis, it is contained in the book’s opening line. “There is,” he asserts, “no such thing as reproduction.” Much as we might like to believe otherwise, his chapters make the unarguable case that our children are always importantly more different from us than they are alike. There is no normal in these pages, still less beyond them. “All offspring are startling to their parents,” Solomon writes. He gestures towards counting the ways, and demands we do the same.
This quote caught my attention for a very specific reason. There have been some conversations here about reproduction–particularly in the context of people who provide gametes that others will use. The question has been posed in terms of who is reproducing–the gamete provider or the recipient/purchaser. But now that I’ve read the quote, I think that’s the wrong question to ask. No one is reproducing–as Solomon says, “there is no such thing as reproduction.”
Surely you can pass on a genetic legacy to a child–though what it will be no one can predict. But you do not reproduce and your child is not a reproduction. Each child is an original.
It’s curious how one can read and write a word for quite a while and not think about its obvious meaning.