I finally had a chance to finish Melissa Fay Greene’s There Is No Me Without You while we were on vacation. I’m quite positive that this book is the #1 most recommended book for people interested in Ethiopian adoptions, and now I know it is for good reason. While it took me a few months to read, that was not the fault of the author or a sign of the quality of the book; that part was on me for not making enough time in my daily life for reading. Not only does the book tell an amazing story and provide a great deal of information, but it is wonderfully written and also a pleasure to read (even when the subject matter isn’t very pleasant).
Greene tells the true story of Haregewoin Teferra, a middle-class, middle-aged Ethiopian woman who was quite lost after the deaths of her husband and one of her daughters. She wasn’t sure of her purpose in the world anymore, but a local Catholic organization must have seen something in her, because one day, they brought a teenage girl in need of a place to stay to her home. Haregewoin took in that girl, and then another child, and then another child, until she was running a full-blown foster home, housing dozens of children of all ages and health conditions at a time. The book tells her story as well as the stories of several of the children.
Greene also gives a tremendous amount of information about the AIDS pandemic in Africa, the lack of access to health care and medication, and the resulting impact on families. Many of the children coming to Haregewoin had lost one or more parents or other family members to AIDS. I was educated a great deal by this book, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit how unfamiliar I was with this issue. Of course I knew that AIDS was a huge problem in Africa. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the governments and major pharmaceutical corporations in North America and Europe chose to look the other way and let it continue. It’s deplorable and outrageous, really, that patents were more important than millions of lives in Africa.
The book includes tales of some of the featured children and their new homes after being adopted. I appreciated that the stories were not all perfect and sugar-coated. We also learn that Haregewoin faced some significant criticism and punishment when problems were reported at her foster home.
Sadly, in looking up the website for the book for this post, I learned that Haregewoin died earlier this year. Her surviving daughter is now running the foster home, which has been a temporary home for approximately 400 children over the past several years.
I was happy to see Craig pick up the book as soon as I was finished with it. He has already plowed through about half of it, and he is really enjoying it as well.
Our next adoption book will be Black Baby, White Hands by Jaiya John, a memoir written by a now-adult African American boy adopted by a Caucasian family. It was recommended to us as a good source of information on the challenges of transracial adoption. But first I’m going to take a break from the serious stuff and pick up a less-intense piece of fiction or two!