Book Review: There is No Me Without You

There is something beautiful about the way we are all knit together. Melissa Fay Greene’s “There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Africa’s Children” weaves a tapestry of love, hope, and decency in the midst of the world’s greatest crisis.

Greene portrays the individuals in her story in a poignant and dignified manner, without hiding the terrible realities of poverty, disease, and death. Through the true story of one woman in Ethiopia, Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra, who simply does whatever she can to help the orphaned children around her, Greene reveals much about us all.

Greene tells a simple story. Haregewoin’s daughter dies of AIDS, and the grieving mother decides to live in seclusion by the grave. But a priest asks her to take in an orphaned teenage girl. With orphanages overwhelmed, there are many more such requests – more children who need a place to sleep and food to eat. They continue to arrive, one after another.

“She didn’t recognize it at first, as the gift that it was. The police knocked on the gate one sunny morning with another abandoned, nameless baby, this one found outside the gates of a restaurant.” (page 284)

Dawit, age 10, is brought by his dying mother. Daniel, 10, and Yosef, 7, are brought by their uncle after their parents die. You meet them all, learn their names, and hear their coughs and cries. For some, it is too late. For others, you witness their transformation as a growing number of people each begin to do their part.

Even if that were all, the story of Haregewoin Teferra would be an inspiring story worth reading. But, because we are all connected, Greene also clearly and expertly unravels myths and reveals ugly truths behind the human catastrophe of AIDS.

Every day, greed, ignorance, and apathy conspire to kill mothers and fathers, leaving children orphaned and alone. Comfort and inertia still blind us and stifle our response.

In 2006, when this book was first published, 4.7 million people were in immediate need of lifesaving AIDS drugs, but only 500,000 had access to them. During that time, 6,600 Africans were dying each day of AIDS. In Zimbabwe, a UNICEF report stated that every twenty minutes a child either died from AIDS or was orphaned by the disease.” (page 25)

I found myself agreeing with Haregewoin in her desperate hours, “It’s too much! It’s too much!” but I could not put this book down. Even if you are familiar with orphans and HIV/AIDS, you will cry new tears. You will find fresh outrage at greed and injustices and the lack of will to fight the causes of suffering.

We are far behind in meeting global promises to combat poverty and AIDS. Corporate greed helped to cause the crisis. Governments may or may not help. The answer lies in the response of individuals like you and me. You AND me – because it’s true – there is no me without you.

This review first appeared in the Friends of TOUCH ministry newsletter, November 2010. This book is a “must-read” for anyone who wants to understand the HIV/AIDS & orphan crises and how we got to this point.

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