By Michael Roddy
LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - American psychologist and writer Andrew Solomon won the 2014 Wellcome Book Prize on Tuesday for his "Far From the Tree: a dozen kinds of love" about raising unusual children ranging from prodigies to those suffering from autism and dyslexia.
The prize, which is given to a book centred on medicine and health, is in its fifth year and carries a 30,000-pound ($50,500) cash award.
Describing Solomon's book, 10 years in the making, as a "monumental work", a statement from the prize jury said it "tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so".
Drawing on interviews with more than 300 families, the book covers subjects including deafness, dwarfism, Down's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, prodigies, children born of rape, children convicted of crime and transgender people.
"Solomon has already been widely praised for his depth of research, his writerly flair and his range of address," poet and writer Andrew Motion, the head of the judging panel, said in the statement, adding that the book is "a profound reflection on the family, and on the influence of medicine and science".
"It's also a book that is driven powerfully by an appeal to personal experience - by Solomon's recollections of growing up as a gay man, and by his exploration of the difficulties and opportunities this created for him," Motion said.
"Taken all together, these things make it an exceptionally distinguished winner: startlingly intelligent, generously compassionate, memorably insightful, and courageous."
Solomon said he was honoured and congratulated the Wellcome Book Prize for choosing a work that wrestles with some of the thorny issues of medical and social progress.
"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," Solomon said.
"My book is about the extraordinary stories of love and compassion that unfold around this duality. For such work to be recognised by a prize that is specifically focused on medicine and health indicates the increasing openness to the nuanced questions of what constitutes health, and what the appropriate parameters are for medicine." ($1 = 0.5936 British Pounds) (Editing by Mark Heinrich)