American writer Andrew Solomon’s Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love, is based on interviews with more than 300 families whose children are affected by everything from deafness to Down’s Syndrome.
It also examines families living with child prodigies and children born after rape.
The writer picked up the 2014 Wellcome Book Prize, set up to celebrate great writing about medicine and human health, at an event in central London and said he was “profoundly honoured” to win.
He said: “There sometimes seems to be an opposition between the social progress that allows us to accept the range of human difference and the medical progress that allows us to cure and eliminate many such differences. My book is about the extraordinary stories of love and compassion that unfold around this duality.”
Solomon dedicated the prize to the families he met while writing the book and explained its inspiration lay in his own childhood.
“I accept this prize on their behalf, with admiration for the human spirit that allowed so many of them to end up grateful for lives they would once have done anything to avoid, that allowed them to love and fight for children whom so much of society might have dismissed.
“The backdrop to the book, woven through its chapters, is my own experience as a child who was miserable about being gay and as an adult who has found joy with my husband and our children.
“For this award to come so soon after the UK has passed gay marriage is especially cheering; my husband and I first celebrated our civil partnership in the UK in 2007, and we are overjoyed, as are so many other people enmeshed in love, to be able to assume that beautiful word for our relationship.
“That, like this prize, marks a more tolerant, kinder world. This is a rapturous day for me.”
Solomon also took home a trophy designed by artist Angela Palmer formed of multiple sheets of glass depicting MRI scans of her own brain.