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There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children

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A novel of tragedy and hope set in AIDS-torn Ethiopia. When Haregwoin Teferra’s husband and daughter died within a few years of each other, her life is shattered and she becomes a recluse. But then a priest delivers an orphan to her door. The another, and another... and together they thrive. The distinguished author of Praying for Sheetrock and two-time National Book award A novel of tragedy and hope set in AIDS-torn Ethiopia. When Haregwoin Teferra’s husband and daughter died within a few years of each other, her life is shattered and she becomes a recluse. But then a priest delivers an orphan to her door. The another, and another... and together they thrive. 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.


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A novel of tragedy and hope set in AIDS-torn Ethiopia. When Haregwoin Teferra’s husband and daughter died within a few years of each other, her life is shattered and she becomes a recluse. But then a priest delivers an orphan to her door. The another, and another... and together they thrive. The distinguished author of Praying for Sheetrock and two-time National Book award A novel of tragedy and hope set in AIDS-torn Ethiopia. When Haregwoin Teferra’s husband and daughter died within a few years of each other, her life is shattered and she becomes a recluse. But then a priest delivers an orphan to her door. The another, and another... and together they thrive. 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.

30 review for There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    NO SPOILERS Having completed the book, here are my thoughts. Everybody should read this book. When you say millions of AIDS orphans, it doesn't really mean anything. When you come to know a few, their thoughts, their experiences, their fears and dreams, the numbers take on a face and they mean something. It is much better to understand one individual in depth than millions without faces. You fall in love with some of these children. Most parents wanted to adopt baby girls. Do you know who were wi NO SPOILERS Having completed the book, here are my thoughts. Everybody should read this book. When you say millions of AIDS orphans, it doesn't really mean anything. When you come to know a few, their thoughts, their experiences, their fears and dreams, the numbers take on a face and they mean something. It is much better to understand one individual in depth than millions without faces. You fall in love with some of these children. Most parents wanted to adopt baby girls. Do you know who were willing to adopt older children, even the tougher boys? The Americans! :0) So the older kids were taught to know a smattering of English. "Everyone is rich in America!" they told each other. And some said, "When you go to America, you turn white." "When does that happen?" Haregewoin asked a little girl. The child confidently replied, "As soon as you get off the plane." (page 265) These children would whisper to each other: does that child have a mother? Think, such is NOT taken as a given for these orphans! There is another issue that is discussed in the book. What happens when someone attains success? What happens when you suceed? At some point succes seems to always lead to trouble. Why is it that what starts out wonderful must be critized? You will see what I am talking about if you read the book. This book made me regret not having adopted children, older children, children with problems. They need caring adults more than anything! They need to he held. They need to be loved. And read about Haregewoin - she is drawn as a very human person. A real individual! This book should be read. Numbers are given a face. ******************** Halfway through: For me, this is an important book to read. I like that it summarizes Ethiopian ancient and more recent history. I like that it clearly states the numbers behind the AIDS situation in Africa and Ethiopia, more specifically. I like the summaries about medical history, the medications and supplies and when they became available. I appreciate the discussion of how AIDS maybe arose. Most importantly, the numbers are given a face. They are no longer just numbers. The pictures in the book are interwoven with the stories of these individuals' lives. To understand what these numbers of AIDS victims mean you must put a face on them. This book is doing that. I am about halfway through.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    This is the book that is causing me to rethink my life and try to decide if I am living a meaningful life. Am I doing enough good or should I sell my possessions, move to Africa or India and dedicate my life to something more useful than having a socially conscious job and owning a home. Haregewoin Teferra was a middle class woman in Ethiopia, a professional woman with an husband who was a teacher and two beautiful and beloved daughters. After her husband passes away she raises her daughters to a This is the book that is causing me to rethink my life and try to decide if I am living a meaningful life. Am I doing enough good or should I sell my possessions, move to Africa or India and dedicate my life to something more useful than having a socially conscious job and owning a home. Haregewoin Teferra was a middle class woman in Ethiopia, a professional woman with an husband who was a teacher and two beautiful and beloved daughters. After her husband passes away she raises her daughters to adulthood. After one of her daughters contracts AIDS and dies, Haregewoin goes into mourning, believing her life is over. Her priest comes to her with a baby that has been orphaned by AIDS and starts her on a journey that transforms her life. She now runs an orphanage that is inundated with the children of the AIDS epidemic. This is a appalling story of the utter waste of human life that the world has let continue long after successful treatments had been discovered to slow the disease and even reverse it in infants. It is also heartbreaking how painful death is for the millions of adults and children that have contracted the disease. The numbers of dead or dying are almost incomprehensible but threaded through it all is the reality that one person can make a difference. This is a compelling story where facts are interspersed with personal stories of children that are alive, well and even in some cases, thriving because someone dared to ignore the stigma of AIDS to give these children a home and a chance. Better yet, it is also well researched and well written.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    This book really taught me a lot both intellectually and personally. It taught me that I haven't the first clue about poverty, the orphan crisis, about Africa and about AIDS. The author writes in a journalistic style about a current day Ethiopian woman who after the death of her husband and later her daughter decides to enter a life of hermitude. As she goes to say her good byes to a priest friend he asks her to take in a street girl and care for her. She reluctantly says yes. With in a few mont This book really taught me a lot both intellectually and personally. It taught me that I haven't the first clue about poverty, the orphan crisis, about Africa and about AIDS. The author writes in a journalistic style about a current day Ethiopian woman who after the death of her husband and later her daughter decides to enter a life of hermitude. As she goes to say her good byes to a priest friend he asks her to take in a street girl and care for her. She reluctantly says yes. With in a few months she is "mother" to 8 children all orphaned by AIDS or poverty. With in a few years she is running 2 homes of 50 plus children, one for healthy children and one for children with AIDS or HIV. Her dedication to her children, her open compassion and unwillingness to turn any away are humbling and convicting. You are saying in your heart, "You can't take anymore!" in one thought and the next, "But you can't send them off with out help, with out hope!" in the next. This true, but griping tale leads you from Ethiopia, America and into the hearts of those effected by AIDS. I had never had sympathy for those with AIDS until I saw the truth of how it effects people, children and families that love each other. It broke my heart with each chapter and child left to fend for themselves. More than that I have questioned how I could choose not to see sickness, poverty and the fatherless how Christ sees them. It has convicted me to the core and pointed out the complete sinfulness of this polished life I am blessed to live. While reading this book my daughter got a very bad bout of the stomach flu. She got very dehydrated. We were fortunate to be able to take her 3 miles to an ER and have her receive several rounds of fluids and admitted for watchful care until her high fever went down. The whole time I held her and cried, thinking that some poor mother in Ethiopia or Asian or else where was with out that hope. She was hundreds of miles from even the most basic medical care, with out any money and even with out clean fluid to give her sweet baby. If I were her my baby would have died! I prayed all night for God to grant those women hope and what they needed, to save their babies as he was surely saving mine! Now what do I do? That is the place I am at. How do I know this and do nothing?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    To be honest I found a lot of the writing a bit too speculative - telling us about how children felt, when the author was not there, let alone in the mind of the child concerned. But that is only a minor quibble. This is an amazing story about an amazing Ethiopian woman - Haregewoin Teferra - who took lots of children orphaned by AIDS, into her home. I very much like the way the author interspersed the story with theories about how AIDS may have come into being, and the fantastic politics of the To be honest I found a lot of the writing a bit too speculative - telling us about how children felt, when the author was not there, let alone in the mind of the child concerned. But that is only a minor quibble. This is an amazing story about an amazing Ethiopian woman - Haregewoin Teferra - who took lots of children orphaned by AIDS, into her home. I very much like the way the author interspersed the story with theories about how AIDS may have come into being, and the fantastic politics of the giant drug corporations, and their battle to keep AIDS drugs patented, and wildly expensive - way out of the reach of poorer countries. Never was the difference between the haves and the have nots more starkly exposed. The statistics are just mind boggling. It was also great pleasure to read about the experiences of families who had adopted Ethopian children in America (including the author.) It cannot have been easy (for the children, nor their step-parents), yet there were so many happy endings. I feel I have learnt an incredible amount from this book - it was really outstanding.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    After reading Melissa Fay Greene's funny No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, I picked up this earlier book about the woman who runs the orphanage from which some of Green's children came. Somehow I missed it when it came out, despite its winning a slew of awards that year. It is a powerful book, and it took me a long time to finish it because I needed time to absorb its impact. The book is not maudlin nor manipulative, but its subject, AIDS orphans, is tragic. Greene is an excellent writer, After reading Melissa Fay Greene's funny No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, I picked up this earlier book about the woman who runs the orphanage from which some of Green's children came. Somehow I missed it when it came out, despite its winning a slew of awards that year. It is a powerful book, and it took me a long time to finish it because I needed time to absorb its impact. The book is not maudlin nor manipulative, but its subject, AIDS orphans, is tragic. Greene is an excellent writer, both for the way she summarizes mountains of research and for the way she interweaves that research with stories about everyday life in the orphanage. I'm sure she knows the impact of the story she's telling, so she laces the sadness and tragedy with humor and history. I learned a lot about Ethiopia as a nation, about how AIDS might have started (leading theory: mutation from infected needles used in inoculations), about drug companies and patents, about adoption processes. And I felt like I got to know Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra, who died in 2009, after this book was written. Teferra was a widow whose own daughter died of AIDS, back when it was known as "Slim" disease because of the way people wasted away from it. Teferra nursed her while she was dying. In grief, deciding that she had no reason to live any longer, she decided to join a community who lived in a cemetery near a church. As she stopped by the church for a final prayer, the priest asked her if she could take in a teenage street girl who had nowhere else to live. Teferra was startled, but then decided that she would go home to think about it, and then decided that yes, she could. The teenage girl was joined by a teenage boy. And then by two little girls. And then by more and more and more children. Over 400. Word had spread. Police officers would bring her children. Dying parents would bring her their children - hand her a baby, and then fall over in the dust. Relatives who couldn't care for them would bring her children. Just by taking in children, she ended up founding an orphanage, and then another, one for children with AIDS themselves, and one for children without. The stigma of AIDS was huge - people did not want to admit they had it, and they did not want contact with these children whose families had died from it. There are over a million children in Ethiopia alone who have been orphaned; 11% of all children there. 10% of the population may be infected. Across the entire continent, 21 million people in Africa had died by 2000. 13 million children had been orphaned. They remember their mothers, grieve them, and search for the loving care of adult women. Every adult woman is a potential mama to them. I learned: -- Teferra was not a saint. Calling her a saint excuses the rest of us unsaintly people from doing anything. -- The US and several other richer countries have pledged small percentages of their GNP towards the global AIDS crisis, but have not fulfilled their promises. There is little political will here or elsewhere for international aid, particularly during this economy. -- What aid does arrive is not always spent well. On-the-ground organizations initiated by the host country are probably more effective. --Adoption is not a viable solution to the orphan crisis - it has to be more systematic. -- Many children are born with AIDS from their mothers, but a course of antiretroviral drugs during and six weeks after birth can prevent it from reaching the child. --Antiretroviral drugs are cheaper ($60-80/child) and more effective now than they were, but they are still scarce. I'm left wanting desperately to do something. Greene apparently gets this reaction a lot, since the book's website has a "how to help" section. Glad I listend to the audio version at the beginning, because it helped me with pronunciation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I wasn't anticipating the emotional journey this book would take me on. I've been sad, angry, happy, bereft, indignant, heartbroken, despairing, hopeful, and just about every other emotion you can imagine while I've been reading it. I'm so moved by the true-life heroine of this book, Haregewoin Teferra who turned her grief after losing her husband and a daughter into a mission to rescue as many of the thousands of AIDS orphans in Ethiopia as she could handle, and then some. The author doesn't pai I wasn't anticipating the emotional journey this book would take me on. I've been sad, angry, happy, bereft, indignant, heartbroken, despairing, hopeful, and just about every other emotion you can imagine while I've been reading it. I'm so moved by the true-life heroine of this book, Haregewoin Teferra who turned her grief after losing her husband and a daughter into a mission to rescue as many of the thousands of AIDS orphans in Ethiopia as she could handle, and then some. The author doesn't paint Haregewoin as a Saint though. She's flawed, but so amazing too. This book has made me reexamine my life and wonder whether I am living a meaningful life? The only reason I'm not granting this book 5 stars is that it was a little too long. Some of the middle sections dragged on a bit. I liked how the author balanced the personal stories with the statistical and historical data, and the journalist side of it all. The parts about how the U.S. handled the AIDS crisis in the U.S. were a bit "bleeding heart" for my tastes. The stories at the end of the children who are adopted and how they adapt to their new families trump! They are my favorite part of the whole book! Can't wait to discuss this in book club tomorrow night!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    This is an eye-opening book about AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. Melissa Fay Greene particularly focuses on the efforts of one woman who cares for those orphans. Haregewoin Teferra was one of the few refuges for AIDS orphans in the earlier days of the pandemic. Greene's tale doesn't seek to make Haregewoin into a saint, but shows her in all her courage and also her limited ability to handle the incredible task she takes on. When the Western world begins to laud Haregewoin for her deeds, Greene also s This is an eye-opening book about AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. Melissa Fay Greene particularly focuses on the efforts of one woman who cares for those orphans. Haregewoin Teferra was one of the few refuges for AIDS orphans in the earlier days of the pandemic. Greene's tale doesn't seek to make Haregewoin into a saint, but shows her in all her courage and also her limited ability to handle the incredible task she takes on. When the Western world begins to laud Haregewoin for her deeds, Greene also shows the backlash that results. There is also a terrific chapter that examines the theories about the origin of AIDS. There Is No Me Without You expands beyond Haregewoin's story to include the stories of Ethopian orphans who are adopted by Westerners, as well as the stories of others in Ethiopia who are helping the orphans. I highly recommend this book to everyone. You will not fail to be moved.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    Much like Half the Sky, this was one of those books I often found myself wishing everyone would read. Briefly speaking, in There is No Me Without You, journalist Melissa Fay Greene explores the history of HIV/AIDS, the subsequent plight in Africa (more specifically, Ethiopia), and how one woman reached out and tried to bring about change. Insightful, educational and inspiring.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    There is No Me Without You is meant to bring a human quality to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and, more specifically, Ethiopia. Regardless of intention, this narrative is problematic. I enjoyed Greene's ability to weave a historical background of the global AIDS epidemic and the storyline of Haregewoin together in the first half of the book. The prose was enjoyable. But this palatable story line is the sole reason this narrative, retold through the lens of an American women, proved dissonant. There is No Me Without You is meant to bring a human quality to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and, more specifically, Ethiopia. Regardless of intention, this narrative is problematic. I enjoyed Greene's ability to weave a historical background of the global AIDS epidemic and the storyline of Haregewoin together in the first half of the book. The prose was enjoyable. But this palatable story line is the sole reason this narrative, retold through the lens of an American women, proved dissonant. There is No Me Without You fosters this idea that Ethiopians can only thrive when reliant on foreign assistance. #whitesaviorcomplex. The book's central character, Haregewoin, is identified as a saint through much of the novel. This identity is overwritten and forgotten as soon as affluent couples from abroad prove more effective care takers. Consider these quotes, "Not many children get to travel the journey from starving African orphan on the brink of death, to the well-fed, well-loved child of a pair of teacher parents who ask, in high voices, 'Do you want your apple juice in the pink cup or the green cup, Ababu?'" and, "It turns out not to be very difficult for children to adapt to electricity and plumbing, a clean water supply, modern medicine, cars, groceries, paved streets, playgrounds, school, shoes, bikes, dance lessons, and loving parents." It is true that there is much suffering in Africa but the problems are not because the people there have low moral codes or are lesser than. Much of Africa has been ravaged by 1st world countries and left to pick up the pieces. Keeping this thought in mind while reading is important. The final part of this book spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on adoptive parents who commodify the children they adopt from the orphanage. They spend time looking through catalogs, picking the best looking/least traumatized child and then being surprised when their rescue orphan turns out well adjusted. Greene's dismissal of the Ethiopian single mother (Haregeweoin) and applause for the nuclear family is glaring. There is one moment in the book where Greene ironically considers the implications of outsourced adoptions. It quickly appears only to dissolve in an instant. The following scene involves an American husband and wife being served in Ethiopia at a restaurant by Ethiopian wait staff: "Rob chafed at the sight of couples like themselves... All us chirpy, cherry white folk having breakfast with our African children, he thought. Is there an imperialist angle to this? Is adoption, on some level, another form of consumerism? What is the meaning of white parents flying in from a rich country to adopt children of a poor black country? Is this some kind of twenty-first-century plunder? But by then he felt too sick with a stomach bug to think it through, and he set aside the misgiving for a later date." Considering the implications of ones actions only to be distracted by an immediate need is the truest form of privilege. For a book that the Cleveland Plain Dealer claims "captures the new face of AIDS in its most human terms" I would argue that it is more accomplished in perpetuating the idea that Africa would be nothing without the assistance of world powers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Souza

    This is one of the most profound, informative, and life-altering books that I have ever read. If I could give it six stars, I would. I started reading this book because I’m a prospective adoptive parent, looking to adopt from Ethiopia. I could not have picked a better book to explain the history and reality of HIV as well as the impact on the children of Ethiopia. This non-fiction work is a story told in two parts. The first aspect of the book covers the history of the development of HIV/AIDS, how This is one of the most profound, informative, and life-altering books that I have ever read. If I could give it six stars, I would. I started reading this book because I’m a prospective adoptive parent, looking to adopt from Ethiopia. I could not have picked a better book to explain the history and reality of HIV as well as the impact on the children of Ethiopia. This non-fiction work is a story told in two parts. The first aspect of the book covers the history of the development of HIV/AIDS, how it actually spread throughout the world, and the many mistakes and misconceptions that we had of the disease as we became aware of it. The second aspect of the book, told simultaneously is on Haregewoin Teferra, who was the first person in Ethiopia to start taking in AIDS orphans (nomenclature means children who were orphaned by AIDS, not necessarily children with AIDS) who were shunned from society, due to a lack of knowledge of how the disease was spread. It was the combination of the cold hard facts of our mistakes and the sheer numbers of people who were impacted as well as the specific stories of children and how they were impacted by the epidemic that made this book real to me. The details on the epidemiology of how HIV was actually created and spread (she has a lengthy bibliography in back for you to check facts) was shocking and appalling. Our epidemiologists have known for 20 years how the disease is actually being spread, but we choose to continue to misunderstand and blame the people who are sick. African people are not just living with their skirts up around their waists and being incredibly cavalier about their relations – they are being infected when going to the doctors. In the 1950’s, when NGO’s started going to Africa to provide inoculations for a variety of illnesses that the people experienced there, they were all done via shots. Subsequently, when people started feeling better, the cultural response was that the only way to get well was through receiving shots. I had read this in Cutting for Stone as well, but most doctors in Ethiopia give patients shots no matter what is ailing them, because the patients don’t feel that they will get well without one. This would be harmless (and placebo effect) were it not for the fact that the doctors and NGO’s do not have an appropriate quantity of needles, and do not sterilize the needles that they do have accurately. In 2005, over 40M shots were given with unsterilized needles! Imagine going to a doctor for a broken bone, and coming out infected with HIV. This is actually happening today. Most disgusting, was the information provided that showed that the major Drug Companies had been able to influence international policy to allow them to extend their drug patents and prevent poor countries from creating generics for AIDS medication, or face international sanctions. With these brand name drugs, the cost of medicating one person for one year is $20K. Generics could be created and distributed for $300 a year – and yet the big drug companies would rather have millions of people in Africa die than drop the pricing of their glamour drugs. How are the parents (who know that they have no hope receiving the medicine that can make them well) protecting their children? These people are shunned, they are abandoned, they can’t work, they can’t eat, and they can’t take care of their children. Imagine what our children would do if their parents, teachers, coaches, daycare providers, grocers, and trash men died all around them. How would they take care of their younger siblings? What would they have to do in order to eat? How easily could the adults who are alive take advantage of them? 1 in 8 children in Ethiopia right now is an orphan. How are they dealing with this? Haregewoin Teferra was the first person to step up and open her home to the flood of children who needed help. Her story is one of grief - of losing her own daughter, and trying to fill that void with the children who needed her. She took in two, then, four, then another and another, until she had over 80 children living in two houses (50 HIV negative, 30 HIV positive). It shows her good intentions, how quickly it became out of control because there were so many children and she couldn’t say no. The book told the story of mistakes that Haregewoin made, how she started worrying more about how to handle future children more than the ones she had, how she fed the children on rice and noodles, because she wanted the money she had to be able to last years. It showed how neighbors and local government agencies became jealous/concerned about her, and how she was subsequently jailed for trumped up charges of child trafficking. It showed her humility and the fact that although she was doing everything that she could, and living for these children – she wasn’t Mother Teresa. The book also told the story of specific orphans of Haregewoin’s – how they were dropped off by grandparents, or aunts, or neighbors, how they grieved for their families, how they adjusted, how they were adopted, and how they live now with their new families. Seeing how each child was impacted by disease and famine, how their families gave them up to give them a chance to eat, and how they survived through it, really brought home the enormity of the problem. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing the reality of HIV or of understanding the orphan crisis in Ethiopia.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Justine Olawsky

    I wish there were more options for the rating system. I "liked" this book in the sense that I am glad to have read it. I "liked" it in the sense that it was beautifully, achingly written in parts. I "liked" it because I think that I am a bit more completely, expansively human for having read it. On the other hand, the subject matter is heart-breaking, the narrator can, at times, be frustrating and intrusive, and the book is one I can never imagine turning to again with pleasure. But, it was cert I wish there were more options for the rating system. I "liked" this book in the sense that I am glad to have read it. I "liked" it in the sense that it was beautifully, achingly written in parts. I "liked" it because I think that I am a bit more completely, expansively human for having read it. On the other hand, the subject matter is heart-breaking, the narrator can, at times, be frustrating and intrusive, and the book is one I can never imagine turning to again with pleasure. But, it was certainly far better than "OK," but never achieving the "really like," so I'm stuck with the banal and vague "like." Which, I guess, is why they let you write reviews -- for clarity's sake. I have often said that one of my greatest talents is my ability to cultivate friendships with people who are far better than I on every level -- smarter, nicer, more spiritually mature. These friends prove this over and over by lending me books far outside my normal ken. Thus it was with There is No Me Without You. I of the bent toward wry and witty British literature would never have picked up on my own a book about AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. And it is very good for me that I did. In the same way, I suppose, that they say colon irrigation is good for you. It is eye-opening to think that, as the AIDS panic started to fade in the U.S. during the 1990's, the African crisis was just getting going. An entire generation of young adults was being wiped out on that continent, with the nation of Ethiopia's being one of the hardest hit. Suddenly, aside from the devastation of the illness to the victims themselves, there was a soul-wrenching side-effect: millions of orphaned children left without comfort, support, or care. Enter the hero of this story: Haregewoin Teferra. She was a middle-aged widow who had just lost her adult daughter to a mysterious, wasting illness (was it AIDS? I was never quite certain. And, if so, how did her daughter get AIDS?). In her grief, she wants to shut herself off from the world. But, God has other plans for her. She is begged by a Catholic charity to take in a homeless teen, which she does reluctantly. That first teen opened the floodgate of needy kids -- and Haregewoin's arms and heart seemed big enough to accept the flow. 15, 30, 45 kids at a time would live in her small home. Eventually, she found pathways to getting them adopted overseas and better cared for in Ethiopia. The main narrative of the book is the story of her journey -- from an outcast widow wracked with grief who reached out her hands to the untouchables; to a celebrated and admired pioneer of orphan-care; to a woman fighting off the disgrace of suspicion and doubt of her motives and good works; to a woman redeemed again. It is a very powerful story. The parts of this book that are most engaging are the parts that simply tell the story of Haregewoin Teferra simply. The writing in these parts is stark and painful and beautiful. In other parts, I found the author's high-strung indignation of the history of AIDS rather anachronistic. It's easy to know what to do when you have the luxury of hindsight. Considering that the main events of this book take place only within two decades of the first outbreaks of AIDS in the West, and the fact that Ms. Greene seems to think that the West is entirely responsible for doing everything in this sad, broken world, I think we had made incredible, near miraculous progress by 2006. Did it save everybody who could have been, who ought to have been saved? No, of course not. But, it is getting better -- and has gotten better with an amazing speed. Can you think of another scourge of plague that has received more attention, more worry, more funding worldwide? It certainly is not Legionnaire's Disease.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ebookwormy1

    I was sad to finish this book. If we ever do adopt from Ethiopia, which is a growing dream of mine: 1) I want to purchase a copy of this book for each child we adopt; 2) I want my husband to read this book; 3) I want to refer everyone who asks "why?" we would adopt to this book. Greene's journalistic style weaves the life of a woman literally sucked into orphan rescue (Haregewoin Teferra's), statistical analysis, vignettes of the children's lives, global politics, Ethiopian history, causes/ developm I was sad to finish this book. If we ever do adopt from Ethiopia, which is a growing dream of mine: 1) I want to purchase a copy of this book for each child we adopt; 2) I want my husband to read this book; 3) I want to refer everyone who asks "why?" we would adopt to this book. Greene's journalistic style weaves the life of a woman literally sucked into orphan rescue (Haregewoin Teferra's), statistical analysis, vignettes of the children's lives, global politics, Ethiopian history, causes/ development of the AIDS epidemic, international distribution of pharmaceuticals, international adoption and personal stories of it's challenges, and the role of NGO's into a compelling non-fiction work. The information is solidly documented and the writing is phenomenal. I learned an incredible amount of information, but never felt bogged down, because the life stories of the individuals were also compellingly presented. I especially appreciated how the writers style changed as she looked at the situation through the eyes of different people and organizations. For me, this book had that special something that made it one of the best I have ever read. It is brutally honest about the challenges and struggles in our world today (AIDS, abuse, death, grief, vulnerable children, poverty, malnutrition, starvation, injustice, sin, prostitution, gossip, jealousy, woundedness, etc., etc.). Yet the story remains inspiring, as a single, widowed woman, consumed with grief reaches out to others and discovers her life calling. And then others join her. We meet the exceptional children, some of their parents, doctors, NGO leaders, the writer herself and we are inspired. There is a risk when sharing her own story that the writer, who has herself adopted two children from Ethiopia, will either come across as pompous or preachy, but i didn't get either of that from Greene. Rather, her part in the story was woven with such humility and grace that it enhanced the others, as opposed from detracting from them. It also allowed her to talk of how her eyes, as a westerner, were opened to what was happening by the extraordinary people she met; it is a journey we share with her. Additionally, Greene does not fall into the trap of idealizing her heroines and heroes. Each is presented in a very real, yet graceful manner. Their accomplishments are not easily secured and their flaws appear along the way. Yet Greene's love for them and ours grows even through their falleness. There is one point late in the book during which I think she becomes a little too vociferous in her defense of Haregewoin. However, in retrospect, these few pages of diminished excellence only served to highlight the value of the rest of the work by seeming so out of place. I'm interested to read other work by this author. If you don't consider adopting from Ethiopia after reading this, God is probably not calling you to do it. Even if you don't hear the call, reading this book will not be a waste of your time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Only having time to read a few pages per day, this book took me a long time to finish. But as I read, I was constantly pulled closer. Closer to the stories of children becoming lost, and becoming found again. Closer to the story of a woman just like the rest of us who gave everything to save the few children she could. And closer to the big picture that is the global AIDS epidemic. Before long, I wasn't able to sit down and read without consuming 15-20 pages at a time. Melissa Fay Greene pulls of Only having time to read a few pages per day, this book took me a long time to finish. But as I read, I was constantly pulled closer. Closer to the stories of children becoming lost, and becoming found again. Closer to the story of a woman just like the rest of us who gave everything to save the few children she could. And closer to the big picture that is the global AIDS epidemic. Before long, I wasn't able to sit down and read without consuming 15-20 pages at a time. Melissa Fay Greene pulls off the difficult task of taking the reader on a "Weightless Wonder" (also known as the "Vomit Comet") tour of AIDS and it's effect on Ethiopia. One minute describing a 30,000 foot view of the effect on generations, and the lack of global recognition and help, the next descending weightless into the lives of extended family giving up children because they cannot care for them. My stomach was in my throat as I envisioned my children waking up to find my wife and I unresponsive--something unthinkable in America, but fairly common in Ethiopia. After so many moments of weightlessness throughout the book, on final landing I sat with my wife and two children (4 and 2) watching "Go, Diego, Go!" with tears rolling down my cheeks, unable to talk about what I had just read for fear of blubbering like, well, my 2 year old. My problem is that now I'm not sure what to do next. Fortunately, the book's website seems to have more resources and guidance. www.thereisnomewithoutyou.com I highly recommend this book, especially if you don't know much about AIDS in the world, or Africa, or Ethiopia (specifically). It will be a treasured read for me for quite some time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Powerfully written, There is No Me Without You, presents solid research, incomprehensible statistics and the more powerful prose of personal narratives and stories out of Ethiopia giving a face and depth the the HIV/AIDS crisis. I cannot adequately express how moving and powerful this story was for me. The HIV/AIDS crisis, the cause of orphans and widows are all completely overwhelming and more often than not leave me feeling powerless and hopeless. Greene presents these overwhelming factors alon Powerfully written, There is No Me Without You, presents solid research, incomprehensible statistics and the more powerful prose of personal narratives and stories out of Ethiopia giving a face and depth the the HIV/AIDS crisis. I cannot adequately express how moving and powerful this story was for me. The HIV/AIDS crisis, the cause of orphans and widows are all completely overwhelming and more often than not leave me feeling powerless and hopeless. Greene presents these overwhelming factors alongside the stories that exemplify hope and power in the lives of ordinary women and children. I cannot solve this crisis. But I don't need to sit back passively and watch it play out either. A powerful read for any American, those well versed in the AIDS pandemic and those who have forgotten that is a pandemic. It reads easy, presents a number of views and a wealth of information and heart regarding our world. "Adoption is good, but children, naturally, would prefer not to see their parents die." (page 25) (I'm in full support of adoption, as is the author, she just makes the point that it's not THE answer and we, as a globabl community, ought to be seeking solutions which allow for more parents to live WITH their children, rather than solutions which only allow a few children to live.) "She could see the nice young man he was born to be, but he was headed for an early grave. If powerlessness made vulnerable the girls of Ethiopia, hopelessness made vulnerable the boys." (page 105) "You don't have to be a saint to rescure other people from suffering and death. You can just be an everyday, decent enough sort of regular person, nothing extraordinary, and yet turn lives around." (Location 7832 - Q&A with the author)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I am reminded of Fred Rogers' quote, when bad things are happening "to look for the helpers." I am having a really hard time writing my thoughts. I am appalled and discouraged, but also hopeful and inspired. This book was like Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide for me: educational in a way that I didn't even know I needed and a scathing indictment of big government, greed, big corporations, and Big Pharma, and some of the worst aspects of humanity. At the same ti I am reminded of Fred Rogers' quote, when bad things are happening "to look for the helpers." I am having a really hard time writing my thoughts. I am appalled and discouraged, but also hopeful and inspired. This book was like Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide for me: educational in a way that I didn't even know I needed and a scathing indictment of big government, greed, big corporations, and Big Pharma, and some of the worst aspects of humanity. At the same time, it is a story that shines bright with the best of humanity, the resilience of the human spirit, and the power of pure love. It is so easy to think and believe that one person simply can't make a difference. What could I possibly do that would make a difference in the face of so much sorrow and horror? But time and time again we see that one person CAN make a difference. This book shows that I can be one of the helpers in some way. The point is to actually help, in whatever way I can. Will I just stew about it and worry about my small contribution? Or will I act, giving what I can? It is one thing to talk about and another to actually do. Greene does a great job of balancing information/facts with Haregewoin's story. She helps us really see and understand these people and love these children without being mawkish. My only 'complaint' is that I wish the timeline would have been more firm so I had a better feel for the unfolding of events. All in all, it was enough. A life-changing (I hope) read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I had a difficult time putting this book down. It is the story of an Ethiopian woman (Haregewoin), who is modestly comfortable (financially) for the first half of her life, experiences a great personal loss and ends up taking in an orphaned child. Six weeks later, Haregewoin takes in another orphan, then another, until she finds herself unable to say "no" to requests for help. An orphanage results, she struggles to make ends meet and her life is no longer her own. Despite this, Greene (the autho I had a difficult time putting this book down. It is the story of an Ethiopian woman (Haregewoin), who is modestly comfortable (financially) for the first half of her life, experiences a great personal loss and ends up taking in an orphaned child. Six weeks later, Haregewoin takes in another orphan, then another, until she finds herself unable to say "no" to requests for help. An orphanage results, she struggles to make ends meet and her life is no longer her own. Despite this, Greene (the author) does not treat Haregewoin as a "saint". As Greene points out, "some people say even Mother Teresa herself was no Mother Teresa". Haregoin's reputation has many ups and downs and Greene does not sugar-coat her story. Greene also provides well-researched information about the AIDS/HIV pandemic across the African continent, with eye-opening statistics. She discusses the resulting loss of much of a generation of working-age adults and their orphaned children. As incomprehendable as the pandemic is, Greene succeeds in illustrating its realities. Although the book may sound a bit disheartening for some readers, Greene does help the reader get to know a number of the children. She treats the pandemic and the poverty seriously, but the reader also learns of some heart-warming, "happily ever after" endings with adoptive parents. This is an important and meaningful book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Like some other readers, I was a little disappointed by some of Greene's more obvious emotional manipulations. Also, I was little annoyed that she didn't really reveal her own involvement in the story, beyond just that of a journalist, until at least halfway through the book. She spends more time than really makes sense defending herself against the claim of having failed to meet Haregewoin at the airport, which makes me wonder what else about their relationship she hasn't revealed. Overall,the Like some other readers, I was a little disappointed by some of Greene's more obvious emotional manipulations. Also, I was little annoyed that she didn't really reveal her own involvement in the story, beyond just that of a journalist, until at least halfway through the book. She spends more time than really makes sense defending herself against the claim of having failed to meet Haregewoin at the airport, which makes me wonder what else about their relationship she hasn't revealed. Overall,the is a heartwringer, pay-attention-to-this issue kind of book rather than a real study of the issue. Most of the history of Ethiopia and AIDS is fairly basic background, appropriate for the book's intended audience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beckbunch

    You will feel changed after reading this book. I absolutely loved it. Greene is a wonderful writer and has the ability to express a point in one sentence that many writers would take pages to tackle. The story she tells is such an important one--what happens to the millions of children orphaned by the AIDS crisis? For some of them, they come to call Haregewoin Taffera's compound home. As Greene says, "In a world without people try to be a person. And Haregewoin tried." A beautiful book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    This is one of the most important books I've read this year, maybe this decade. It is a true story of corruption and AIDS, not as a generality, but as a disease that can erase a country if not a continent unless our help gets to whom it needs to go. It is a story of how each individual person, doing what is within their ability to do, can make a change. This is the book our young people need to be reading.....not the fantasy world of Twilight.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Confession- I thought I was buying a different book when I did my one click ordering; however, I am so grateful that this book came into my life. As someone who has studied public health, you would think that the impact of the AIDS epidemic wouldn't shock me, but nothing can prepare you for these stories of heartache and loss. It's not an easy book to read, but the lives of these remarkable humans are powerful, inspirational, and resilient.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    sad but inspirational story of a woman who, despite having next to nothing, ran an orphanage in ethiopia. greene has a knack for telling stories of people who beat the odds (she wrote Praying for Sheetrock).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Roz

    I always have found Melissa Fay Greene to be an exceptional writer. This book also outlines how much she lives exceptionally, too. Once you read this, please read her more current No Biking in the House Without A Helmet.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    An inspiring book, and one I would have finished if I hadn't left for vacation when I was on page 145.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Flora

    A moving, heartlifting account of how an Ethiopian woman handles AIDS, orphans and adoption.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Esther

    This is a powerful book about the Aids epidemic in Ethiopia and all the children who have become orphans because of this disease.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Assany

    This is probably going to be the most important book I've read in 2018. If it isn't, then it'll definitely be in the top 3. It's heartwarming, heart-breaking, beautiful, and horrendous. I'll admit that I talked to myself throughout listening to the (incredibly narrated) audiobook, saying things like "Are you kidding me?!" and "This is unbelievable." I don't think I read the blurb closely enough when I bought it. I imagined it was going to be a memoir about a rich, self-righteous white American as This is probably going to be the most important book I've read in 2018. If it isn't, then it'll definitely be in the top 3. It's heartwarming, heart-breaking, beautiful, and horrendous. I'll admit that I talked to myself throughout listening to the (incredibly narrated) audiobook, saying things like "Are you kidding me?!" and "This is unbelievable." I don't think I read the blurb closely enough when I bought it. I imagined it was going to be a memoir about a rich, self-righteous white American as she played with orphans. I couldn't have been more wrong. It actually told us about a middle-class native Ethiopian named Haregewoin Teferra, who was begged by a local church minister to foster an orphaned teenager. She was still mourning the loss of a beloved daughter, but she soon decided she would serve God better by caring for this orphan. One turned to two, and then five more children landed on her doorstep. Across the years, she became one of the very few who would even touch a highly-stigmatised HIV+ child. Though she was far from perfect, her kids were her life. She was one of the most well-loved gateways for orphans to adoption. This book is a story of Haregewoin's life. It's also a commentary on the history or Ethiopia and on the history of AIDS. It's also the story of just a few of Ethiopia's AIDS orphans. Some have happy endings. Some do not. All of them are worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    After watching her daughter die of cancer in 1998, a middle-class Ethiopian woman names Haregewoin Teferra nearly lost the will to live. Then a local priest begged her to take in a teenager whose parents had died of AIDS. That was just the beginning. Over time, Teferra opened her modest home to hundreds of orphans, despite the huge stigma attached to anyone associated with the "skinny disease," as AIDS was called there. Greene's nuanced portrait of this heroine places Teferra at the center of a After watching her daughter die of cancer in 1998, a middle-class Ethiopian woman names Haregewoin Teferra nearly lost the will to live. Then a local priest begged her to take in a teenager whose parents had died of AIDS. That was just the beginning. Over time, Teferra opened her modest home to hundreds of orphans, despite the huge stigma attached to anyone associated with the "skinny disease," as AIDS was called there. Greene's nuanced portrait of this heroine places Teferra at the center of a global crisis, but never loses its focus on the innocent victims. The U.N. estimates that by 2010, Africa could have 50 million children orphaned because their parents died of a disease that can be treated by drugs readily available in affluent nations. Greene quotes a doctor whose colleagues compare AIDS in Africa to the Holocaust. "We will be asked by future generations, 'What did you do to help?'" Teferra will have no trouble answering: More then my share. #peoplemagazine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Journalist Melissa Greene tells of the history of AIDS and its devestating effects in Africa, and one woman's inspiring effort to give her all to the orphans left in its wake. Haregewoin Teferra lost her husband and a daughter and became a depressed recluse until she was asked to take in an orphan, and then another. As she opened her heart and her home, she was able to not only save the lives of countless orphans, but help heal her heart as well. I appreciated learning about the history and poli Journalist Melissa Greene tells of the history of AIDS and its devestating effects in Africa, and one woman's inspiring effort to give her all to the orphans left in its wake. Haregewoin Teferra lost her husband and a daughter and became a depressed recluse until she was asked to take in an orphan, and then another. As she opened her heart and her home, she was able to not only save the lives of countless orphans, but help heal her heart as well. I appreciated learning about the history and politics surrounding the AIDS epidemic, but was most touched by this woman's seemingly endless heart and generosity. Truly inspiring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Wilbur

    This long account of the HIV/AIDS development in the world, from its possible origins to the specifics of how it impacted central Africa and more detailed the account of one agency in Ethiopia, I learned so much. So devastating. And so preventable. Dirty needles. Medicine prevented from getting to the needy because of greed. Foster care and adoption of children orphaned by this disease made this story have some redemption, with so much selfless care for others. Otherwise, a sad read but one not t This long account of the HIV/AIDS development in the world, from its possible origins to the specifics of how it impacted central Africa and more detailed the account of one agency in Ethiopia, I learned so much. So devastating. And so preventable. Dirty needles. Medicine prevented from getting to the needy because of greed. Foster care and adoption of children orphaned by this disease made this story have some redemption, with so much selfless care for others. Otherwise, a sad read but one not to be forgotten. Surely will be a memorable one for me forever.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jana Fraser

    I read this in preparation for the adoption of our son in Ethiopia. It is an amazing account of a selfless woman who operates an orphanage for kids with AIDS. Woven into the book is the story of politics behind the AIDS crisis and the authors own personal journey towards adoption. I couldn’t put it down.

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