Summary and book reviews of There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

There Is No Me Without You

One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children

By Melissa Fay Greene

There Is No Me Without You
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2006,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2007,
    496 pages.

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Book Summary

The distinguished author of Praying for Sheetrock and two-time National Book award finalist puts a human face on the AIDS crisis in Africa.

When Haregwoin Teferra’s husband and 23-year-old daughter died within a few years of each other, her middle-class life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was shattered. Bereft and with little to live for, Haregwoin became a recluse. Her self-imposed exile to a hut near her daughter’s grave was interrupted when a priest delivered first one, then another, orphaned teenager into her care. To everyone’s surprise, the children thrived, and so did Haregwoin. As word spread, children of all ages began to appear at her modest home: an infant brought by a dying mother, an orphaned brother and sister whose grandfather was too poor to feed them, a baby left on her doorstep. Haregwoin’s small compound became known as the rare place where ailing parents and impoverished families could safely leave their children. Soon Haregwoin was caring for sixty children, running an unofficial orphanage and day school, and learning first-hand about her country’s and her continent’s greatest challenge: the AIDS pandemic that is leaving millions of children without parents to care for them.

With the flair and grace of a novelist and the reportorial instincts of a seasoned journalist, Melissa Fay Greene gets to the heart of the AIDS crisis, in a story that is nevertheless one of hope. There Is No Me Without You is the story of Haregwoin and her children: a story of struggle and despair, but also of the triumph of saved lives, and the renewed happiness of children welcomed by adoptive parents in Ethiopia, America, and around the world. Haregewoin’s remarkable story convinces us that the crisis in Africa touches every one of us in some fundamental way. At heart, this book is about children and the parents they need to care for them.

1

August 2004

On a dim, clattering afternoon in the rainy season, I sat in a crowded living room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, stupefied by water. The rain drumming the tin roofs of the hillside district was deafening, as if neighbors on rooftops banged with kettles and sticks. The mud yard boiled and popped in the downpour. Through the wide-open front door, I watched arriving visitors leap across stepping-stones slick with clay. At the doorstep of Haregewoin Teferra’s two-room brick house—an earthier, leakier dwelling than the modern two-story stucco house she’d once enjoyed—the men took off their hats and shook them and the women wrung out their shawls. Though Haregewoin was sliding further every day from her former middle-class standing, a dozen old friends opted to sit out the cloudburst with her—some as a sign of loyalty, some probably to see what she was going to do next. Despite misgivings about whom they might find among her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
These discussion questions are designed to enhance your group's conversation about Melissa Fay Greene's There Is No Me Without You, the inspiring portrait of one Ethiopian woman nurturing a young generation orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.


About this book

Haregewoin Teferra always wanted a large family, but she and her husband, Worku, were satisfied to raise their two daughters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Worku died suddenly, and their eldest daughter, Attetegeb, died soon after, Haregewoin retreated into solitary mourning. But a local priest begged Haregewoin to take in a vulnerable young girl, an orphan living on the streets. Six weeks later, another orphan arrived on her doorstep. Before she knew it, ...
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More than 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS in Africa; UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS) predicts that by 2010 25-50 million African children under the age of 15 will be orphaned; in a dozen African countries, up to a quarter of the nation's children will be orphans.

When Melissa Fay Green started to research There Is No Me Without You she was driven by a simple question: Who will raise the millions of children currently orphaned, let alone the generations to come? Who will pack them school lunches? Who will comfort them when they have nightmares? Who will help millions of children avoid lines of servitude and prostitution? Who will pass on to them the traditions of their culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? Who will help them to grow up to make the right choices for their own lives?

The answer is not many - but there are some, In There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children, Greene puts a human face on this overwhelming tragedy by focusing on one imperfect woman, Haregwoin Teferra, who in the face of her own tragedy found the strength to take in orphans, both HIV-positive and negative and since then has given hope and a home to dozens, if not hundreds of children.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

[A] moving, impassioned narrative.

Booklist-Hazel Rothman

The horrific numbers behind the AIDS pandemic in Africa, "the most terrible epidemic in human history," have little resonance for most people in the West: The detail of one lost child at a time, who finds love, laughter, comfort, and connection, opens up the universal meaning of family.

Reader Reviews
Colin KNAUF

We can't sit on our THUMBS any longer, or it is GENOCIDE.
Melissa Fay Greene's hard hitting journalistic style remains as neutral as possible in this real life horror story and fairy tale. She relates the pain and suffering of AIDS at every level with an amazing compassion and reality. Try as any one might,...   Read More

Corrie

If You Only Read 1 Book This Year, Then It Should Be This One!
You have to read this book! We, in the US, are so oblivious to what is going on in other parts of the world, especially Ethiopia. This book will capture your attention from the start and really gets you thinking.

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A Short History of Ethiopia
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (historically known as Abyssinia) is located in east Africa, on the "Horn of Africa" (map). Once an important trade route due to its location on the Red Sea, it has been landlocked since 1993, when the province of Eritrea gained independence. It is the oldest independent country in Africa (and is unique in that it was never colonized), the second-oldest official Christian nation (after Armenia) and one of the 51 original members of the United Nations. Its capital is Addis Ababa (pronounced ah-deece ah-bah-bah). With a landmass a little over twice the size of Texas and a population of about 75 million, it is the third most populous country in Africa ...

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