From Publishers Weekly
Not unlike the AIDS pandemic itself, the odyssey of Haregewoin Teferra, who took in AIDS orphans, began in small stages and grew to irrevocably transform her life from that of "a nice neighborhood lady" to a figure of fame, infamy and ultimate restoration. In telling her story, journalist Greene who had adopted two Ethiopian children before meeting Teferra, juggles political history, medical reportage and personal memoir. While succinctly interspersing a history of Ethiopia, lucidly tracing the history of AIDS from its early manifestation as "slim disease" in the late 1970s to its appearance as a bizarrely aggressive [form] of Kaposi's sarcoma in the early 1980s, and following the complex path of medication (a super highway in the West, a trail in Africa), Greene rescues Teferra from undeserved oblivion as well as rescuing her from undeserved obloquy (false accusations of child selling). As with her previous books (Praying for Sheetrock
; The Temple Bombing
; Last Man Out
), Greene takes a very close look at what appears to be the fringe of an important social event and illuminates the entire subject. Ethiopia is home to "the second-highest concentration of AIDS orphans in the world"; even as some of the orphans find happy endings in American homes, Greene keeps the urgency of the greater crisis before us in this moving, impassioned narrative. (Sept.)
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The horrific numbers behind the AIDS pandemic in Africa, "the most terrible epidemic in human history," have little resonance for most people in the West: "the ridiculous numbers wash over most of us." But this searing account humanizes the statistics through heartbreaking, intimate stories of what it is like for young orphans left alone in Ethiopia. Greene's story focuses on one rescuer, Haregewoin Teferra, who has opened her home and compound in a rickety hillside neighborhood of Addis Ababa and taken in hundreds of the untouchables thrown in the streets and left at her door. She cannot turn them away. Yes, the comparisons with Mother Teresa are there, but this is no hagiography; the middle-aged Teferra is "just an average person with a little more heart." Greene tells the stories in unforgettable vignettes of loss, secrecy, panic, stigma, and, sometimes, hope, even as she documents the big picture of "the human landslide," the history and science of epidemiology and transmission, and expresses her fury at the "crimes against humanity" of the multinational drug companies whose expensive patents have denied millions access to the life-saving medicines. Just as moving are the personal stories of international adoptions in the U. S., including two Ethiopian children taken into Greene's own Atlanta family. The detail of one lost child at a time, who finds love, laughter, comfort, and connection, opens up the universal meaning of family. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved