Reading Guide Questions
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
About this book
Haregewoin Teferra always wanted a large family, but she and her husband,
satisfied to raise their two daughters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When Worku died
suddenly, and their eldest daughter, Attetegeb, died soon after, Haregewoin
solitary mourning. But a local priest begged Haregewoin to take in a vulnerable
girl, an orphan living on the streets. Six weeks later, another orphan arrived
doorstep. Before she knew it, Haregewoin was running a full-fledged orphanage:
Attetegeb Worku Memorial Orphans Support Association.
When Melissa Fay Greene traveled to Ethiopia to adopt a child, she was stunned
AIDS pandemic in Africa: the lack of crucial drugs for treatment, the pervasive
the bureaucratic denial, the international neglect, and most of all, the
of deaths, and the orphans thus left without care. Haregewoin, hastily taking in
orphan, who simply had no place else to go, watched her reputation rise and fall
each step she took in the children's interest. Faced with malicious gossip and
repercussions, Haregewoin once again focused on her primary purpose: connecting
vulnerable children with nurturing caregivers.
There Is No Me Without You
is the story of "the common experience of this
generation" (276) and an impassioned reminder of what is at stake in the AIDS
pandemic: the solace of family.
- 1. Haregewoin typed a line from a pop song, "There Is No Me Without You"
framed it with a picture of her daughters. How does this line relate to Haregewoin's
family, and to her work? Why is this an appropriate title for this book?
- Review the rescue of Mintesinot, the brave two-year-old boy whose name means
"What could he not do?" (15). In what ways is Minty's story typical of his
What about Minty's story (which continues on pages 398 to 405) is extraordinary?
- Greene points out the dispirited state of Ethiopian children: "If
vulnerable the girls of Ethiopia, hopelessness made vulnerable the boys" (105).
How does the AIDS crisis affect each gender differently? What are some
possible solutions to counteract the powerlessness and hopelessness exposed
in this book?
- Haregewoin put two especially beloved children up for adoption: Menah (page
and Nardos (page 354). Why did Haregewoin break her promise to "Never get
like this again" (260), when two-month-old Nardos landed in her arms? Why did
Haregewoin allow these children to be adopted? Review both of these girls'
from Haregewoin's compound. Which goodbye was more difficult for Haregewoin, and
- Two noisy American gifts made their way into Addis Ababa orphanages: Greene's
whoopee cushion (265) and the Hollingers' Hokey Pokey Hamster (379). What effect
did these gifts have upon the Ethiopian orphans? How did the children's reaction
toys surprise the gift-giver, and the reader? What function do these anecdotes
- Chapter 42 describes an elaborate birthday party that a rich Ethiopian girl
threw at Haregewoin's house. What does this chapter reveal about the structure of
society? How do you think Haregewoin's orphans felt during and after the party?
- How did young Wasihun's accusation of sexual abuse signal a turning point in
Haregewoin's work? Later, in court, Wasihun said, "Nothing really happened.
Someone told me to say it'" (407). How relevant do you think the veracity of Washun's
accusation is to the case?
- The agency that Greene pseudonymously calls "Forward Ethiopia" (335) objected
to Haregewoin's role in placing Ethiopian orphans with foreign families. What are
positive and negative effects of a policy like Forward Ethiopia's, which
keeping children in their native cultures? How did this policy affect Hana and
Sintayehu, whom we meet in chapter 47? Why did Hana's story escalate into
of child trafficking against Haregewoin?
- Within two pages, the reader hears two perspectives on Ethiopians' resentment
toward Haregewoin. Miniya, a former worker in the compound, seems to think of
"'you put yourself above the children. What was once beautiful was your ability
each child. Now you don't know who they are'" (342). Greene counters, "Haregewoin
was the only person who had ever opened her gates to them
. But they were still
still sick, still hungry. So it must be Haregewoin's fault
. They stand here and
against Haregewoin because she hears them" (344). According to these arguments,
is Haregewoin resented? How do these two perspectives Miniya's and Greene's
differ? How are they similar?
- Greene presents the stories of several Ethiopian children settling in with
families in America: Meskerem, Mekdes and Yabsira, Ababu, and Mintesinot. Which
these passages affected you the most? What emotions did your favorite adoption
- Early in the book, Greene mentions the Ethiopian tradition of layered
speech: "sam enna warq (wax and gold): the sam is the surface meaning and the warq is the
hidden meaning" (7). What could be considered the sam, or surface meaning, of
No Me Without You? What could be the warq, or deeper meaning?
- At the end of the book, the Hollinger family attended an impromptu memorial
for their adopted children's birth parents. Ryan Hollinger said to the mourners,
all one family now'" (427). What do you think he meant? How does this ending
the themes of the book?
- Were your perceptions of the AIDS pandemic and its victims changed by this
If so, how?
- In a review of Greene's first book, Praying for Sheetrock, the Boston Globe
Greene's writing style, "a combination of oral history and interpretive
Sunday Globe, 9/29/91). How does Greene combine the various narrative threads of
There Is No Me Without You Haregewoin's story, Greene's own experiences,
information about AIDS, and accounts from other adoptive families? If you have
Praying for Sheetrock, how does Greene's writing style in There Is No Me Without
You compare the earlier book?
- At the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Dr. Seth Berkley of
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative said, "An AIDS vaccine is the only tool
end the pandemic" (Reuters, 8/15/06). Until the vaccine is developed, what might
ways to stop the spread of AIDS? What are some realistic solutions to helping
victims and orphans in Ethiopia and the rest of the world?
Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic;
Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who
Would Cure the World;
Philip Gourevich, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We
Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda;
William Powers, Blue Clay People: Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge and
Whispering in the Giant's Ear: A
Frontline Chronicle from Bolivia's War on Globalization;
Greg Behrman, The
People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest
Humanitarian Catastrophe of Our Time;
Alexander Irwin, Joyce Millen and Dorothy
Fallows, Global AIDS: Myths and Facts, Tools for Fighting the AIDS Pandemic;
Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide;
Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Bloomsbury USA.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.