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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,044 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Melissa Fay Greene Narrator: Coleen Marlo Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. But Melissa and her husband have also pursued a more private vocation: parenthood. 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Love knows no bounds—and no borders—in journalist Greene’s ebullient valentine to her family of nine children.”

    People (four stars)

  • “Moving, enlightening, and surprisingly funny…No Biking in the House without a Helmet…folds an adoption primer into a meditation on family.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Readers…will find plenty of hilarity in this romping account of [Greene’s] boisterous brood…[She] brings her well-honed research and reporting skills to this very personal story…This joy—experiencing it and conveying it to readers—is her greatest success.”

    Washington Post

  • “Joyful and big-hearted…This funny and frankly personal book is a departure for Greene, whose previous work has been sober and measured. The title sounds like a madcap domestic comedy in the tradition of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, which it sometimes is. But Greene’s humor is less acerbic, her persona less addled…Greene is such an open and self-deprecating narrator she makes every addition to her family seem like the most natural and beautiful move in the world, ‘each child—whether homemade or foreign born—a revelation, a treasure.’ The ability to write brilliant books with a houseful of children is clearly the least of Greene’s gifts.”


  • “There are funny parenting books and wise parenting books. Rarely a funny and wise parenting book. Melissa Fay Greene really does have nine children, five of whom were adopted from foreign orphanages—but this book isn’t a treacly, multicultural Brady Bunch. Neither moralistic nor preachy, this memoir is about what it’s like to have heart, and grow children with heart. In another writer’s less deft hands, children who herded goats in Ethiopia and then relocated to a big old house in Atlanta could have become a Southern Jewish version of Brad and Angelina. Greene captures the wild vicissitudes of her family’s life and how individual difference enriches them all.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • No Biking in the House without a Helmet is [Melissa Fay Greene’s] sprawling, imperfect, courageous, and joyful account of the adoption process, warts and all…The moral of her story? Just the opposite of the title’s warning. Don’t be afraid to break the rules, to ‘steer by the light of what makes us laugh, what makes us feel good’—especially if it means biking in the house, with or without a helmet. With deep compassion, sparkling humor and an unshakable faith in the power of the whoopee cushion, she leads the way.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • AudioFile Earphones Award winner

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Linda Kier | 2/19/2014

    " I selected this book because of it's 4+ rating and catchy title. I learned a lot about a foreign adoptions, a topic I am not familiar with and was not particularly interested in. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and I learned as well. As a mother of 4 children, I could relate to the chaos in the household and laughed along with the family. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Sandra | 1/30/2014

    " I'd recommend this book to any of my fellow adoptive parents of kids from other countries. Just the right mix of reality and humor and told in wonderful narrative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Susan | 1/14/2014

    " Very, very funny. I don't usually read this kind of thing, but I was captivated by Greene's interview on NPR. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Rose Mary Achey | 1/3/2014

    " Jewish family in Atlanta adopts 5 children from developing countries. "

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