Melissa Fay Greene

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Melissa Fay Greene

Melissa Fay Greene (born December 30, 1952) is an American nonfiction author. A 1975 graduate of Oberlin College, Greene is the author of five books of nonfiction, a two-time National Book Award finalist, and a 2011 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.[1] Her books have been translated into 15 languages.


Born in Macon, Georgia, and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Greene lives in Atlanta with her husband, Don Samuel, a criminal defense attorney, and numerous children. Married in 1979 in Savannah, Melissa and Don are the parents of nine: Molly Samuel, Seth Samuel, Lee Samuel, Lily Samuel, Fisseha 'Sol' Samuel [1994-2014], Daniel Samuel, Jesse Samuel, Helen Samuel, and Yosef Samuel, ranging in age from 33 to 17. Don is a partner in the law firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb, representing a variety of white-collar and non-white-collar criminal defendants, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and rap star T.I. He has appeared in Best Lawyers in America every year since 1991. Their oldest four children were born into the family; Jesse was adopted from Bulgaria in 1999 at age four; Helen was adopted from Ethiopia in 2002 at age five, Fisseha from Ethiopia in 2004 at age 10, and brothers Daniel and Yosef from Ethiopia in 2007 at 13 and 10.


Praying for Sheetrock

Published in 1991, Praying for Sheetrock is the true story of the often-criminal heyday of the good old boys in McIntosh McIntosh County on the rural coast of Georgia and the rise of civil rights there in the mid-1970s. It won the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Book Award,[2] the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize,[3] the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award,[4] the Quality Paperback Book Club New Visions Award,[5] was a finalist for the National Book Award[6] and the National Book Critics Circle Award[7] and was named one of the 100 best works of American journalism of the 20th century by the journalism faculty of New York University.[8]

The Temple Bombing

The Temple Bombing (1996) investigates an incident of domestic terrorism during the era of "massive resistance" to desegregation in Atlanta in 1958 when an Atlanta synagogue known as "The Temple"[9] was bombed by a homegrown neo-Nazi organization. The New Jersey-born Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, a friend and colleague of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and of other white and African-American civil rights activists, spoke and acted on behalf of civil equality despite the precarious social position of Southern Jews and the fears of his congregants that the violent racists would come after them.

The book was a National Book Award finalist[10] and winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award,[11] the Georgia Author of the Year Award of the Georgia Writers Association, the Georgia Historical Society Award,[12] the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award, the Salon Book Award, and the American Civil Liberties Union National Civil Liberties Award.

The infamous 1915 lynching—by a white mob including civic leaders—of the Jewish 31-year-old manager of the Atlanta Pencil Company, Leo Frank, wrongly convicted and posthumously pardoned for the murder of 13-year-old child worker Mary Phagan, occurred within this same community: Frank was a member of The Temple.

The Academy Award-winning Driving Miss Daisy (Best Picture, 1989), written by prize-winning Atlanta native Alfred Alfred Uhry, makes dramatic use of the Temple bombing incident—Miss Daisy is a Temple member—though the chronology is fictionalized.

Last Man Out

Last Man Out (2002) tells the story of the 1958 Springhill mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia and the absurdist American white supremacist coda to the spectacular rescue of a handful of Canadian men. Nearly a week after the collapse of the deepest coal mine in the world, long after all the missing were presumed dead, two groups of men—injured and desperately dehydrated—were discovered a vertical mile underground. The worldwide focus on the rescue of the first group—through newspapers, television news reports, and movie theater news-reels—inspired a few highly placed officials in the administration of Governor Governor Marvin Griffin of Georgia, a staunch segregationist, to invite the survivors and their families to vacation on the coastal resort of Jekyll Jekyll Island, Georgia. The state officials conceived it as a PR gimmick that would enlighten the world about the Georgia coast as a tourist destination equal to Florida's beaches. However, a second group of miners was found alive; when the survivors were finally extricated, the "last man out" turned out to be an "Afro-Canadian," Maurice Ruddick. All tourist accommodations in Georgia were segregated. Rather than a brilliant PR coup, Georgia officials inadvertently insulted Ruddick, a Canadian hero of the underground, causing a minor international incident.

Last Man Out was named a Best Book of the Year by Chicago Tribune, Globe and Mail, the Cox newspaper chain, and the New York Public Library.

There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Save Her Country’s Children

This 2006 book illuminates the Ethiopian orphan crisis caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa through the portrait of one person on the frontlines: a middle-aged Ethiopian foster mother, Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra, and the scores of children crossing her threshold. It was winner of Elle Magazine’s Elle’s Lettres Readers Prize,[13] a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, an American Library Association Notable Book and Booksense Notable Book, and named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly,[14] Christian Science Monitor, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago Tribune, and The Atlanta Constitution.

There Is No Me Without You has been translated into 15 languages.

No Biking in the House without a Helmet

[Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011] Greene's first humorous book and first memoir is an overview of family life with nine children from three continents, composed, according to the acknowledgements, with the consent and veto-power of all family members.

“It’s time for a laugh-out-loud selection….something you can take to the beach.‘No Biking’ is…a chance to revel in the joy that one wonderful writer takes in this messy, exhausting, life-changing process… Not everything goes smoothly in this story, and Ms. Greene is not Pollyanna. But she is as upbeat as any parent you are ever going to meet, with a wicked sense of humor that I plan to try and channel the next time things get chaotic in my own, relatively tiny family.” –Lisa Belkin, Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting, The New York Times

“You just know that a book’s going to be good if you’ve already guffawed and the type has started to blur--and you’ve barely even finished the introduction… Greene is a culturally sensitive, boldly humane, never-crushing antidote to this year’s Tiger Mother. ... No Biking is a revelatory must-read.”–Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor

“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..." —Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune, 4/15/2011

No Biking was named a Best Audio Book of 2011 and was an Oprah Mother's Day Pick.

Greene has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Life Magazine, Good Housekeeping, The Atlantic, Readers Digest, The Wilson Quarterly, Redbook, MS Magazine, and

Awards and Honors (incomplete)

2015: John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

2011: induction into the Georgia Writer's Hall of Fame

2010: Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Emory University

2006: Winner, Elle Magazine’s Elle’s Lettres Readers Prize,[15]

2006, Finalist, J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize,


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