Who’s giving the opening address at The Sydney Writers’ Festival? Andrew Solomon. Let Jo Case & President Bill Clinton tell you why #SWF2014

Order Far From the TreeAndrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity is a truly amazing labour of love – and one of my favourite books of the past decade. Over seven years, Solomon has interviewed over 300 families where parents have children who are different from themselves in a defining way, across ten different categories, including deafness, dwarves, autistic and criminal children. He expertly weaves the diverse experience of these families into a narrative whole, looking at how parents come to love and accept children who are not what they expected, and to see the surprising positives in some of the most daunting challenges.

To what degree do these parents accept their children as they are, try to cure them, or a blend of both? What is it like to inhabit those identities, here and now? And (perhaps most intriguingly), is it better to get by in the mainstream world, with effort, but always be aware of not quite fitting in, or to relax into your natural self in a marginal world?

I was sucked into this book from the first page because of the masterful storytelling – a regular New Yorker writer, Solomon exemplifies the world-class reportage that the magazine is famous for. But I was left thinking about it for weeks and months afterwards because of the way Solomon explores questions at the heart of what makes us human, through the subject of parenting under challenging circumstances. Sometimes, he suggests, when we are forced to work harder for something, we value it even more.

Review by Jo Case, author of Boomer and Me: A memoir of motherhood, and Asperger’s

In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon reminds us that nothing is more powerful in a child’s development than the love of a parent. This remarkable new book introduces us to mothers and fathers across America –many in circumstances the rest of us can hardly imagine–who are making their children feel special, no matter what challenges come their way.

President Bill Clinton

Andrew Solomon will be giving the Opening Address at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 20th May 2014 - for more details click the banner below…

BOOK NOW: 2014 Opening Address: Andrew Solomon

Order Far From the Tree

Far From the Tree

Sometimes your child – the most familiar person of all – is radically different from you. The saying goes that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But what happens when it does?

In this seminal new study of family, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who learn to deal with their exceptional children and find profound meaning in doing so.

He introduces us to families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, Solomon documents repeated triumphs of human love and compassion to show that the shared experience of difference is what unites us.

Drawing on interviews with over three hundred families, Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices, whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery.
Parents and children are challenged to their limits, but often grow closer as a result; many discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become activists, celebrating the conditions they once feared.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far From The Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows how love for one’s children can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

About the Author

Andrew Solomon is a writer and activist working on politics, culture and psychology. He writes regularly for The New YorkerNewsweek, and The Guardian. He is a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell University and Special Adviser on LGBT Affairs to Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry. The Noonday Demon won the 2001 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. His highly-acclaimed study of family, Far from the Tree won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Non-fiction, the Lukas Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, among others. He lives with his husband and son in New York and London.


As seen in SMH & THE AGE > Books that changed me: Andrew Solomon


Far from the Tree is a landmark, revolutionary book. It frames an area of inquiry ‐difference between parents and children–that many of us have experienced in our own lives without ever considering it as a phenomenon. Andrew Solomon plumbs his topic thoroughly, humanely, and in a compulsively readable style that makes the book as entertaining as it is illuminating–

Order Far From the Tree

 Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize– winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Andrew Solomon has written a brave and ambitious work, bringing together science, culture and a powerful empathy. Solomon tells us that we have more in common with each other– even with those who seem anything but normal– than we would ever have imagined.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point

This is a monumental book, the kind that appears once in a decade. It could not be a better example of the literature of diversity.

Steven Pinker, fucking genius and author of The Blank Slate 

‘Reading Far from the Tree is a mind-opening experience.’ Eric Kandel

‘Andrew Solomon’s investigation of many of the most intense challenges that parenthood can bring compels us all to re-examine how we understand human difference. Perhaps the greatest gift of this monumental book, full of facts and full of feelings, is that it constantly makes one think, and think again.’ Philip Gourevitch

 After all that, how can you not want to order a copy of Far from the Tree from Booktopia right now…? Click Here

Dr. Yvonne Sum, author of Intentional Parenting: How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Dr. Yvonne Sum

author of Intentional Parenting : How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I consider myself a bit of a global product: I was made in Sydney Australia, exported to Malaysia when I was 2 years old, recalled to Australia (hopefully no major defects that an Aussie attitude will not fix), 1.5 decades later, and re-packaged for the global marketplace. Currently I am being held in Qatar (strategically placed in the world so I can get to most places of the globe within 8 hours’ flight, and only need travel long- haul to get to Melbourne (12 hours) or Houston (17 hours).

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I always wanted to be around people: I was energised by people. I loved being with people. I loved learning from them. My passions revolved around people – and how to learn to get them to live their highest potential.

So it is hardly surprising that when I was 6 years old, I told my grandmother that I wanted to be the mother of 100 children. To which she wisely replied (with a twinkle in her eye): “You will have to start straight away, my dear … and hope to live long enough to accomplish such a feat.”

At 12 years old, I wanted to be a nurse – as I had been reading story upon story of heroines who served as nurses in the war. I adored Florence Nightingale. Mostly I felt that nurses provided great comfort when people (patients and their families) were at their worst.

When my 18th birthday came around, I had fallen in love with the prospect of being a journalist. I had been involved as the editor of my school newspaper (that I founded) and was busy on the school magazine team. My projects took me to meet many people in the community whom I loved interviewing and learning from. Sadly, I had fallen out of love with the typewriter (this was pre-word processing via a pc or notebook…) by the time I had to sign up for my University degree. I queued up to join the ranks of the beloved (NOT!) profession – the dental surgeon – via a short sojourn in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Pilot Officer in the Medical Corp. Why? Well, I thought I could work hands-on more with people and less with paperwork (as I did not have to deal with the dreaded typewriter) and there was a certain romantic ideal that I could become a heroine saving my patients from (pulpal) death and waging my war against the epidemic of dental anxiety and phobia in the community!

By the time I was 30, I was getting traction in my battle against Dental Anxiety through my roles as a Media Spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association (in my attempt to re-brand The Dentist in our Community as a public friendly educator and motivator of DIY self-help health – after all, most of dental disease was preventable), an Educator / Mentor for University of Sydney Dental Undergraduates and Post-Graduates, and a dental entrepreneur who ran practices that aimed to deliver quality healthcare that was engaging for both patient and team member.

However, it was not until I turned 34, when I faced a remarkable turning point in my life that put me in the best role ever. I became a parent to my little boy Jett and two years later, his sister Xian. I realised that my calling was to learn leadership from first-hand parenting – so I may help the world reach their highest potential by working with the parents.

So began my empirical research into ‘Parents as Leaders’ – and conversely ‘Leaders as Parents’…. which took me down my current path as a Leadership Coach, Certified Speaking Professional and Author.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That parents have all the answers!

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Becoming a parent.

Discovering NLP on my journey to understand our human condition.

Independence as a 16-year-old living with my sister in Sydney.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

It is a perfect complement to ALL of the above. Some of us still love the touch, feel and smell of a newly printed book……I am also an avid blogger, reader of online articles, and enjoy being a guest or host on TV, radio, podcast, webinars, and other multi-media …. bring it on!

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Intentional Parenting How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids  was written as a conversation with the reader who may have had some concerns like me. You see, I was initially a reluctant parent because I thought I was totally fulfilled in my career and needed nothing more. The perfectionist in me erroneously hypothesised that I had to subtract other parts of my life to be able to do parenting properly. Until my decision to be less concerned about being the perfect parent but to be the observant learner of my children did I find I could not only love and support them to be the best human beings they can be, but it simultaneously paved the way for me to re-discover the genius in me. I am excited to share my learning insights on this personal transformational journey -and hoped readers will find this a useful piece to reflect on.

Click here to buy Intentional Parenting from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Be the best human being you can be – don’t short-change the world by selfishly keeping your genius hidden and unexpressed.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My parents, Jerry and Alice Sum. It is through their Role Modelling that “Parents are Leaders”. It was always a learning partnership from the get-go. It took me to have my own children before it dawned upon me the ingenuity of their methods.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Be the best human being I can be – so I don’t short-change the world by selfishly keeping my genius hidden and unexpressed.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be clear of your outcome: What do you want?

Take action: Just Do It!

Be alert: Observe keenly the results of your actions.

Keep measuring: Make sure the results are on track with your outcome.

Be flexible: You may need to change actions to get your outcome.

Manage your energy:

Passion + Persistence + Perspiration = Inspirational Outcome


Dr. Yvonne Sum, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Intentional Parenting from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

OUT NOW: Career Mums by Kate Sykes and Allison Tait

‘I want to go back to work.’

No matter what your story, your reasons, your philosophy, chances are that if you’re a mum, one day you’ll find yourself saying a version of those words.

And then wondering how you’ll make it happen.

This is a practical game plan, designed to get you back into work and help you stay there.




Click here to order your copy of Career Mums from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

About the Authors:

Allison Tait is an experienced journalist who has been writing for books, magazines and newspapers for more than twenty years. Her list of writing credits includes magazines such as Marie Claire, Madison, Vogue Australia, CLEO, Cosmopolitan and Sunday Life, as well as newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Telegraph, and ninemsn’s Finance and Careers websites, kidspot.com.au and other sites. She is the author of Credit Card Stressbusters: Slash your credit card debt in 90 days (Wrightbooks), and documents her life as a writer and mother of two on her blog, lifeinapinkfibro.blogspot.com.

Kate Sykes is the founder of careermums.com.au, Australia’s first dedicated careers centre and jobs board for working parents and parents returning to work. She also runs a recruitment business called Lift – liftrecruitment.com.au – and is a workforce planning specialist, working with businesses to implement flexible workplace policies and strategies for retaining parents after parental leave. She is a member of AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute), the chair of the Canberra Business Council’s Workstyles Committee, and 2010/11 Telstra ACT Business Woman of the Year.



I want to go back to work. I need to go back to work. I have to go back to work.

No matter what your story, your reasons, your philosophy, chances are that if you’re a mum, one day you’ll find yourself saying a version of those words. And then wondering how you’ll make it happen.

In January 2010, the government introduced the right to request flexibility in the workplace. But introducing the right doesn’t necessarily make it easy to approach the boss. What you need is someone to talk you through it, show you how it’s done, explain your rights and responsibilities – and help you get the desired results.

This book is not an overview or a review of how someone else did it, though there’s lots of shared experience here. This is a practical game plan, designed to get you back into work and help you stay there.

It won’t tell you how to make your toddler sleep at night so you can get to work. But it will give you practical advice on negotiating a flexible work arrangement, so that your toddler sees enough of you and doesn’t feel the need to stay awake all night to ‘catch up’. It won’t teach you how to fix a relationship that’s buckling under dual workloads. It will give you the tips and tricks you need to organise parental and household duties so that resentment doesn’t become an extra member of your family. Continue reading

Kerri Sackville, author of When My Husband Does The Dishes…, answers Five Facetious Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kerri Sackville

author of When My Husband Does The Dishes…

Five Facetious Questions


1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?

Don’t be ridiculous. I would NEVER do something so tacky. Of course, I did *cough* offer a prize on my blog to the person who placed my book in the most prominent position and provide photographic evidence, but that doesn’t count at all as it’s not Continue reading

Kerri Sackville launches When My Husband Does the Dishes…

When My Husband Does the Dishes… by Kerri Sackville
was launched last Thursday night

Cunningly disguised as a wino to throw off the paparazzi, author and journalist Mark Dapin was on hand to officially launch the book…

Then the star of the night, the gorgeous Kerri Sackville, seduced her audience with a rendition of the Olivia Newton-John hit – I Honestly Love You

Maybe I hang around here
A little more than I should
We both know I got somewhere else to go
But I got something to tell you
That I never thought I would
But I believe you really ought to know

I love you
I honestly love you

After such a moving performance there wasn’t a dry eye in the house

Mark Lewis from Random House was on hand to steady his new star…

Author Kylie Ladd flew up from Melbourne for the event and was enjoying herself until she happened to look over her shoulder to see her agent in an embrace with another author…

Literary Agent Pippa Masson, who discovered Kerri on Twitter, proves once again that she likes to have a very close relationship with all of her clients…

And lastly… For those who doubt that I was there at all… let’s play Where’s the Wally…

If you feel like you keep missing out on the cool stuff that happens it might be because you’re not yet on Twitter. Sign up and follow @booktopia, @KerriSackville, @kylie_ladd and @pippamasson

Click here to read Kerri Sackville’s answers to my
Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to read Kylie Ladd’s review of
When My Husband Does the Dishes…

Click here to order your very own copy of
When My Husband Does the Dishes…

Then on Friday, after spending much of the previous night drinking and carousing with her celebrity friends, a fragile Kerri Sackville arrived at Booktopia to cuddle and sign her books…

WHEN MY HUSBAND DOES THE DISHES… by Kerri Sackville (The movie!)

Click here to read Kerri Sackville’s answers to my
Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to read Kylie Ladd’s review of
When My Husband Does the Dishes…

Click here to order your very own copy of
When My Husband Does the Dishes…

John Elder Robison, author of Be Different, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Elder Robison

author of Be Different and Look Me In The Eyes

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Athens Georgia, while my parents attended the University of Georgia. I was raised on both coasts of the United States as my dad attended graduate school before settling as a Professor of Philosophy in Amherst, Massachusetts

I attended various schools before ending up in Amherst High School, from which I was ejected in the tenth grade. I remained a proud and defiant high school dropout until 2008, when the Monarch School of Houston, Texas, gave me an honorary diploma.

Beyond that, I pretty much schooled myself. I was lucky my father was a college professor, and I had the Continue reading

Libbi Gorr, author of The A-Z of Mummy Manners – An Etiquette Guide for Dealing with Other People’s Children and Assorted Mummy Dilemmas, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Libbi Gorr

author of The A-Z of Mummy Manners – An Etiquette Guide for Dealing with Other People’s Children and Assorted Mummy Dilemmas

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Melbourne – a child of the seventies and eighties. I like to say I have a Sherbet heart and a Skyhooks mind. Like a few of of the slightly audacious go getting girls you see in public life – my secondary schooling was MLC in Kew. Cate Blanchett and Nicola Roxon are also MLC girls. I like to say they both were a few years ahead of me.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was 12 I wanted to play centre half forward for the Collingwood Football Club. AFL Footy heroes were the stars of Melbourne life. When I was 18 I just wanted to be one of those girls all the boys wanted to sleep with, so I could turn them down. At Thirty, hmmmm. I was Elle McFeast. So I guess by that stage I was an amalgam of everything I’d always wanted to be for the first part of my life.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That Bob Hawke was a happily married to Hazel.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Studying Law at The University of Melbourne was a life changing experience. It was there that I got involved with the Law Revue, produced by Tom Gleisner now of Working Dog. It was all a bit intimidating to start, but then I saw another chubby girl in a fluffy pink jumper auditioning and thought, “If she can do it, I can do it”. That was of course, Magda. From there I was scouted to join an all girl comedy cabaret act called The Hot Bagels. We sang parodies of popular songs – like a neurotic Andrews Sisters really – about our weight, our love lives – very Bette Midler in tone. The Hot Bagels were my entrée into comedy. The Melbourne scene was incredibly vibrant. It was the genesis of the Doug Anthony Allstars and Wendy Harmer and The Continue reading

Guest Reviewer Kylie Ladd on When My Husband Does the Dishes… by Kerri Sackville

When My Husband Does the Dishes . . . provoked much discussion in my household. Not regarding its contents, which I’ll get to, but instead over the title.

“When my husband does the dishes… what?” asked my eleven year old son when he first saw (or rather heard) me reading it. Knowing full well that the original title had actually been When My Husband Does The Dishes He Wants Sex I quickly and seamlessly steered the discussion in a different direction.

“Uh, um, nothing!” I stuttered. “It’s just ‘When my husband does the dishes’. Full stop! End of story!”

“No it’s not,” said my daughter, eight, who is quite frankly sometimes a bit too smart to be all that likeable. “Those dots are an ellipsis. It means there is another thought coming.” She turned to her brother. “You should have listened more in grade three.” I tried to sneak away, the book tucked under my arm, but she stood in the doorway, blocking my exit. “So mum”, she demanded, “what’s in it?”

I couldn’t tell her. Not because Kerri Sackville’s brilliant first book is filthy and depraved (though it does have some bits in it about wet patches), but because I couldn’t do it to the sisterhood. To the wifehood. To the motherhood. Couldn’t give away our secrets; couldn’t let the opposition (also known as our husbands and children) in on any knowledge that they might use against us. Couldn’t admit to my spouse, for example, that like Kerri I have fed the kids noodles and tomato sauce for dinner three nights running when he was away on business and told them to tell him it was spaghetti ; couldn’t confess to my progeny, that actually, the back of the sock drawer isn’t mummy’s special place, it’s just where she puts your homemade Mother’s Day gifts so she doesn’t have to look at them.

Kerri Sackville knows it all. She’s been in the frontlines of motherhood for more years now than she’d thank me for telling you. She has three kids, an, um, ‘back massager’ in her bedside drawer and her own painstakingly perfected delousing technique. She is also extremely bloody funny and made me laugh so loudly and frequently while reading this book that in the end my husband threw me out of bed and suggested that the title should really be “When my husband does the dishes it’s to get away from his unhinged wife”.

Those of you who follow Kerri’s blog, her tweets or her regular columns for the Mama Mia website will know what a gifted and hilarious writer she is, but also how very frequently she is bang on the money with her shrewd observations and razor-sharp wit. When My Husband Does the Dishes . . . certainly made me laugh, but it also made me go “Shit, yeah” under my breath so often that I had to keep glancing around to check that the kids hadn’t heard. If you know how to flirt without flashing your maternity bra, if you’ve ever kept a child home from school with a rash that later washed off, or if you sometimes dream of raspberry fondant instead of chocolate swirl (and I’m not talking ice cream here), this book is for you.

But it’s not for my children. “I know, mum!” my son declared a few days after I’d started reading Kerri’s book. “The whole title should be ‘When my husband does the dishes his hands get wet’.” Yes, I told him. Yes, you’re right! That shut him up, anyway, but I’m still keeping it away from the eight year old.

Available 2nd May 2011. Order your copy of When My Husband Does the Dishes … – CLICK HERE


Thanks to Guest Reviewer – Kylie Ladd

Kylie Ladd is the author of After the Fall, and was the first author to answer the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions – read Kylie’s answers here…

When Kylie is not busy scribbling, she is also a delightful distraction on Twitterfollow her here…

Kylie’s Website: here…

About After the Fall:

The story of a friendship between two couples – and an affair that blows their worlds apart.

Two married couples: Kate and Cary, Cressida and Luke. Four people who meet, click, and become firm friends. But then Kate and Luke discover a growing attraction, which becomes an obsession. They fall in love, then fall into an affair. It blows their worlds apart. After the fall, nothing will ever be the same again.

And pre-order Kylie’s new book Last Summer  here

I have read a proof copy of this wonderful book. I read it quickly. I really wanted to know what happened next. How these people would cope. When I wasn’t reading it – when I was at work – I kept thinking I should text the characters to see how they were doing… They had become such a part of my life. It was a wonderful feeling. A great thing for a novel to achieve. This is a warm, wise, entertaining and somewhat life-changing book. The Booktopia Book Guru.

Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma – an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon tragedy strikes … and those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel of loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of the nine people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now.

Marriage, friendship, family – all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page, their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.

Last Summer is a novel about loss – the terrible pain of losing a husband, brother or friend, but also all those smaller losses that everyone must face: the loss of youth, the shattering of dreams, the fading of convictions and the change in our notions of who we thought we were. It is also about what comes after the loss: how we pick up the pieces and the way we remake our lives.

Nicole Avery, author of Planning with Kids, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nicole Avery

author of Planning with Kids

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Mildura, a country town 550km north west of Melbourne. I lived and went to school there until I was 17, when I moved to Melbourne to go Deakin University (Burwood). I studied a Bachelor of Business (Finance). I knew from the first year of study it wasn’t really my thing, but finished my degree anyway.

Spent most of my working life at a large Australian Telco, doing a variety of roles from Performance Manager to Call Centre Manager. Lived in the inner city of Melbourne, until our house was bursting with kids and toys and then we moved to a bigger house and big backyard in the inner east of Melbourne.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

12 – Journalist. I loved news and current affairs. Loved reading and writing, so it seemed like a logical Continue reading


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