Irle Goldman presents a Professor’s Prologue to a Conversation with author Andrew Solomon, who will speak at Lesley on February 25
Friday, February 22, 2013
It is a beautifully written, poetic book. There are many times when I read a sentence of his and thought, “Wow, that’s gorgeous writing,” and then I re-read it to whoever was near me.
He combines art with science. You’ve got the first person descriptions of parents living with kids with various challenges, illnesses and lifestyles interspersed with descriptions of the research and issues in each of these areas. To me, this gets to the very essence of what is suffering and what is healing.
He analyzes vertical identity and horizontal identity – how we are similar to those who raised us and how we are different, and how we then get our identities, support and connection from those who are like us.
It is amazing to me how the over 300 families he has interviewed and connected with have let him into their lives and hearts. This says something profound about his compassion, who he is, and how he relates.
He has an overarching vision that brings coherence to the nature of differences and their inherent similarities. His vision connects these various kinds of challenges: prodigies, the deaf, autism, schizophrenia, crime, dwarfs, and others. This too is profound.
He is provocative. So many times I found myself challenging my own assumptions about so many things. By telling the stories of these many people and families, you get to reflect deeply on the question, “What’s it all about Alfie?” You get to see the complexity of various answers that different families give to the same situation. This makes me humble.
He is transparent about his own role in this. Start by reading the first chapter, entitled “Son.” It’s a beautiful exposition about his own gayness and dyslexia and how it relates to his own connection to his family, to himself and to others. It gives you the context and beautifully describes the eyes he looks through in writing the rest of the book. He ends with how his journey has enriched and influenced his own life and choices in the final chapter called “Father.”
“Difference unites us….The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state.” (p.4)“…I knew that my own parents would have consented to a parallel early procedure (like cochlear implants for the deaf) to ensure that I would be straight, had one existed. I do not doubt that the advent of such a thing even now could wipe out most of gay culture.” (p.3)
“Though many of us take pride in how different we are from our parents, we are endlessly sad at how different our children are from us” (p.2)
“Loving our children is an exercise for the imagination.” (p.1)
“To look deep into your child’s eyes and to see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to him, is to achieve parenthood’s…unselfish abandon.” (p.6)
“Some kinds of grace would not have entered the world if everyone’s hips and legs worked the same way.” (p.38)
“It is always both essential and impossible to tease apart the parents’ wanting to spare the child’s suffering and the parents’ wanting to spare themselves suffering. It is not pleasant to be suspended between two ways of being… (p. 36)
“…everyone has a defect, everyone has an identity, and they are often one and the same.” (p.18)“I hate the loss of diversity in the world, even though I sometimes get a little worn out by being that diversity. I don’t wish for anyone in particular to be gay, but the idea of no one’s being gay makes me miss myself already.” (p. 18)
Irle Goldman, Ph.D., teaches in the Counseling and Psychology and Expressive Therapies divisions at Lesley University.
To read more about Solomon's upcoming Conversation at Lesley, which is free and open to the public, click here.
Andrew Solomon speaks at Lesley on February 25 at noon in Marran Theater.
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