Sometimes the Apple Falls Horizontally
I am slowly making my way through Andrew Solomon's magnum opus, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity . . . and while everyone likes to comment when the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and the kid acts just like his parents (and my boys certainly fall into this category: I have two little versions of myself running around the house, doing Dave-like things, which can either be exhilarating or extremely frustrating) Solomon has tackled a much wilder event -- when the apple falls "horizontally" instead of vertically; when parents give birth to a child nothing like themselves . . . the book has chapters on Dwarfs, the Deaf, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Prodigies, Transgender, and more -- and each chapter is nearly the length of a book; Solomon himself is a horizontal child -- he is gay -- and though his parents were accepting of him, they still weren't the same as him, so he writes the book from an unusually personal perspective; I have just finished the chapter on the Deaf, and it made with grapple with an ethical dilemma that I didn't even know existed; when hearing parents have a deaf child, they have to immediately decide if they are going to implant a cochlear implant, which wil give the child an ersatz but workable version of hearing, or instead, immerse him in the culture of the Deaf -- sign language -- or do something in between, with speech therapy . . . and the Deaf community views the implants or the attempt to make a deaf child learn to speak as "the final solution," a way to eradicate Deaf culture, which is apparently rich and thriving . . . some radical Deaf believe that hearing parents with a deaf child should give the child up to the Deaf community, but this strikes me as insanely unrealistic . . . Harlan Lane, a Deaf community advocate, wrote: "the relation of the hearing parent to the young deaf child is a microcosm of the relation of the hearing society to the deaf community; it is paternalistic, medicalizing, and ethnocentric," and so the question becomes -- as technology and medicine and genetic screenings start to eliminate hearing loss -- is the Deaf community something worth saving? . . . and if you think I have the answer to this, then you''re sadly mistaken, as I'm having a hard enough time getting my own children, who have excellent hearing, to listen to a word I say.