Dispatches from the new front lines of parenthood
When the two-time National Book Award finalist Melissa Fay Greene confided to friends that she and her husband planned to adopt a four-year-old boy from Bulgaria to add to their four children at home, the news threatened to place her, she writes, "among the greats: the Kennedys, the McCaughey septuplets, the von Trapp family singers, and perhaps even Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev, who, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, gave birth to sixty-nine children in eighteenth-century Russia."
Greene is best known for her books on the civil rights movement and the African HIV/AIDS pandemic. She's been praised for her "historian's urge for accuracy," her "sociologist's sense of social nuance," and her "writerly passion for the beauty of language."
But Melissa and her husband have also pursued a more private vocation: parenthood. "We so loved raising our four children by birth, we didn't want to stop. When the clock started to run down on the home team, we brought in ringers."
When the number of children hit nine, Greene took a break from reporting. She trained her journalist's eye upon events at home. Fisseha was riding a bike down the basement stairs; out on the porch, a squirrel was sitting on Jesse's head; vulgar posters had erupted on bedroom walls; the insult niftam (the Amharic word for "snot") had led to fistfights; and four non-native-English-speaking teenage boys were researching, on Mom's computer, the subject of "saxing."
"At first I thought one of our trombone players was considering a change of instrument," writes Greene. "Then I remembered: they can't spell."
Using the tools of her trade, she uncovered the true subject of the "saxing" investigation, inspiring the chapter "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Couldn't Spell."
A celebration of parenthood; an ingathering of children, through birth and out of loss and bereavement; a relishing of moments hilarious and enlightening—No Biking in the House Without a Helmet is a loving portrait of a unique twenty first-century family as it wobbles between disaster and joy.
With four children of their own, Atlanta journalist Greene (There Is No Me Without You) and her husband, a criminal defense attorney, gradually adopted five more one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia to create a roiling, largehearted family unit. In her whimsical, hilarious account, she pokes fun at her own initial cluelessness regarding the adoption process, which the couple began after Greene suffered a miscarriage in her mid-40s; they procured an "adoption doctor" to advise them on the risks of adopting institutionalized babies from Russian and Bulgarian orphanages (e.g., the baby's head measurements and appearance in videos might indicate developmental problems). After several trips to a rural Bulgarian orphanage, they brought home a four-year-old Roma boy they renamed Jesse; Greene writes frankly about her own moments of "post-adoption panic" and doubts about attachment. Subsequently, as her older children headed out to college, new ones arrived: the humanitarian HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia resolved the couple to adopt healthy, five-year-old Helen, orphaned when her family was decimated by the disease; then nine-year-old Fisseha, and two brothers, Daniel and Yosef, whom Greene's older biological son Lee befriended while working at another Ethiopian orphanage. The family often felt like a "group home," as Greene depicts engagingly, yet despite periods of tension and strife, such as the discovery of living parents and sibling rivalry, Greene captures the family's triumphant shared delight in one another's differences.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A read over and over again favorite
This book became an instant favorite of mine. It reminded me of favorites of my childhood such as cheaper by the dozen. But there is a modern twist as the Solomon children are from several countries and some are adopted. yet it a family not a group home and the love enrichment of all comes though on each page. It is funny but more importantly it rings true.
Such a great book. As a mom, really made me laugh out loud. Fun and easy read.