Ethiopian Adoption: An Informal & Unofficial Guide

They are like children everywhere. Those who have been loved and nurtured since birth –and cared for in decent orphanages–typically adjust very well to their new families. My husband and I have four children by birth and five adopted at older ages from orphanages in Bulgaria and Ethiopia. In general, despite seemingly insurmountable trauma in our children’s early lives, all five of them have become our wonderful, ridiculous, gorgeous, sporty, talented, messy, smart, and noisy very own children who will go to great lengths to avoid cleaning the kitchen after dinner. Read the rest of this entry »

Ethiopian kippot for your Jewish events!

Hand-crocheted kippot are being created by three women, three friends of mine, in Ethiopia. The yarmulkes are affordable, unique, and beautiful; and they allow these women to earn a living. It would be a mitzvah to add to your religious observance, celebration, simchah, wedding, bar or bat mitzvah, Shabbat table, Jewish summer camp, or community gathering by making it possible for others to live. The older woman who crochets is a widow; the younger women, in their 20s, have been orphaned. Each is trying to make her way alone in one of the poorest countries in the world.
The kippot are five dollars apiece and your friends and guests will be enriched.
You can email Hana Negede directly to talk about colors & designs, and I’ll help every step of the way:

Postscript: In 2005, I took this photo of a few boys at Atetegeb Foster Home, modeling Hana’s kippot. I didn’t know at the time that the imp on the left, in red, Yosef Gizaw, would become my youngest son. He did, in 2007. In 2010, he celebrated his own bar mitzvah wearing one of Hana’s kippots.

Eight Candles, Nine Lives

From Readers Digest’s ReadersDigestInspiringHolidayStories, December 2011:

We parents work so hard to relay the historical and spiritual import of religious holidays. No, we explain, Hanukkah is not primarily about gift giving; it’s about a long-ago freedom struggle. The eight-day winter holiday celebrates the successful resistance of the Jews against King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria and the restoration of the Second Temple 21 centuries ago. All our traditions — from lighting the menorah to frying the potato pancakes called latkes to spinning a top in the game of dreidel — contribute to the commemoration of these events.
Unfortunately, the Hanukkah observance that has stayed with my children as the most significant of their childhoods has nothing to do with religious freedom. One night in the 1990s, we tidied up wrapping paper and toys in the den while the lit menorah stood on the kitchen table. In our absence, as the many-colored candles snapped and dripped, our long-haired black-and-white cat, Ladybug, hopped onto the kitchen table and brushed past them. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Books, Nine Children

You really don’t have favorites.

There’s something special about that first-born though.

You dove into first-time motherhood and first-time book-publishing with the same open-mouthed wide-eyed look on your face as Flounder in Animal House, who, as the street parade erupts into a riot, pants “Oh boy, is this GREAT!” Read the rest of this entry »

Fox5News profiles our family

A local Fox5TV news team came to our house yesterday to report about the book & our family. I’d torn through the house at dawn to fling things into closets (important things that we shall never see again), and to wipe down the kitchen counters and to spray air freshener everywhere and to invite the dogs into my upstairs bedroom and close them in there. Out front, I hosed down the walk, cooling the burning concrete and freshening the garden and I kicked 40 soccer balls under the bushes. Read the rest of this entry »

A Musical Reunion, of Sorts

I begin by quoting a remarkable email I received last night from a well-spoken 30-something reader in a suburban town near the Bay Area. It started out like many wonderful emails from readers, before taking an interesting turn:

“Hello Melissa,
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your new book. I was drawn to your story because of adoption, and I was happy to feel even more connected with it when I read about Molly’s band, David Copperf**k. My husband and I are now settled in the suburbs across the bay from San Francisco, but we spent most of our twenties in the punk rock scene of San Francisco and have seen David Copperfuck perform several times. In fact, my husband’s band and our friends’ bands played with them a few times. If I had looked at your book cover a bit closer in the beginning, I may have recognized Molly sooner.” Read the rest of this entry »

Excellent Review Sparks Insurrection

Lee (a college senior in Israel) saw it first, and posted it on his Facebook page: a fantastic review, by Terry Hong, in the Christian Science Monitor
which begins: “You just know that a book’s going to be good if you’ve already guffawed and the type has started to blur (even though you’re trying not to get overly emotional) when you’ve barely even finished the introduction. Welcome to two-time National Book Award finalist Melissa Fay Greene’s latest title, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet.”
It goes on in wonderfully generous praise, and then this sentence appears:
“Third child Lee, by the way, is quite possibly the story’s star.”
Well! Lee texted me this sentence from Israel; his message was the first thing I saw in the morning.
“Wow,” I texted back, and he replied: “This newfound celebrity has possibly already gone to my head.” Read the rest of this entry »


Our old friends Faith & Howard Levy hosted a publication party for me last night. We were welcomed at the door by a BIKE and a BIKE welcome mat, and by a BICYCLE centerpiece inside, filled with flowers and cookies. Forty close friends, my dressed-up children, wine & cheese, and an informal reading in which I explained both my sheepishness about finally writing a “memoir” and why I did it anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Passover 2011

Donny was stuck in a long trial in Arizona; Seth flew home from San Francisco to spend Passover with the family. Here he’s chopping apples & nuts for the holiday food, Charoset, by pounding on a hand-held chopper with a hammer–I don’t believe this is an approach my mother or my grandmother would have recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

“Are You Listening?”

Two stories about a new audio exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, entitled “Are You Listening?” were both presented by my children!
A KALW Crosscurrents radio story was reported & produced by Molly Samuel & Seth Samuel:
Are You Listening? New Sound Installation Gets Inside Your Head”

And a story was written by Molly:
“Have You Ever Questioned Art? This Art Questions You.”