No Biking in the House Without A Helmet

No Biking in the House Without A Helmet

Book - 2011
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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.

Publisher: New York : Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780374223069
Branch Call Number: 306.8743092 Green
Characteristics: 354 p. : ill.


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Jan 30, 2012

Very well-story about the author and her husband adopting 5 children, 1 from Bulgaria in the early 1990s and then 4 more from Ethiopia later in that decade. As her 4 biological children were growing up and after having a miscarriage at 42, she and her husband considered adoption. A lot is told about how they welcomed the children into their homes, how they went about the process, etc. All 4 had been in loving homes before they "lost" their families, and that made a huge difference. The author writes with humor but also explains a lot about adoption through the example of her family. The last chapter is hilarious. This is an amazing read about an amazing family.

catincharge Nov 16, 2011

One of the best books I've read this year. Amazingly honest, insightful and truly funny.

zavirani Oct 20, 2011

A great read. Greene tells a very human and witty story simply about family, and what that means to her. Great stories about the good and bad emotions that come with adoption, and a very beautiful story about the ups and downs of being part of a large family.

Jun 28, 2011

This woman has such a great sense of quirky humor, combined with such a compassionate sense of humanity, that she made me laugh on one paragraph and brought me to tears in the next. This is an excellent read, very rewarding and hard to put down.

debwalker May 29, 2011

Love knows no bounds-and no borders-in journalist Greene's ebullient valentine to her family of nine children. When their oldest son goes off to college, Greene and her husband, Donny, decide to repopulate their emptying Atlanta nest with a Bulgarian boy, then a girl and three boys from Ethiopia. Differences are embraced as the kids adjust: Never taught imaginative play, Jesse tries to beat a toy weasel to death with a broom; goatherd Sol keeps spears in the tree house. Greene doesn't ignore her new kids' roots, taking the Ethiopians to their homeland and not only locating one son's grandmother but starting her off in the chicken farming business. "Who made you the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?" a friend quips, but Greene doesn't apologize. Instead, she shows what it means to knit together a family that "steers by the light ... of what feels right and true."

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