Meet the Big Read Author Melissa Fay Greene

Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2018

How did two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene come to write about the Xenia Ohio-based service dog organization 4 Paws for Ability? The author will answer this question and others when she visits the Dayton Metro Library on Thursday, April 12, with 4 Paws for Ability Founder Karen Shirk. Together, they’ll talk about Greene’s book, The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love, this year’s Big Read community-wide reading selection. The free program begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Main Library Eichelberger Forum, 215 E. Third Street, Dayton.

author“It’s exciting to have the author of the Big Read come visit, but this year will be extra special because of the unique opportunity to hear from both the author and the subject of her book,” said Ben Murphy, co-chair of the Big Read. “We’re eagerly awaiting an evening filled with fascinating and inspiring stories.”

The Underdogs tells the story of Karen Shirk, who envisioned an organization where applicants for service dogs are not declined based on the severity of their disability, as she had been, nor their age, as she learned most children were. Ms. Greene weaves together Shirk’s personal story, scientific research and the powerful experiences of children with disabilities and their families.

Booklist says, “Melissa Fay Greene lends her trademark empathetic voice to this engrossing inside look at the work of 4 Paws for Ability... Greene, a master at telling the most human of stories, will still leave readers smiling. And dog lovers will adore this book.”

Today, 4 Paws For Ability is the largest organization whose primary mission is to place service dogs with children, and one of the only organizations to have no minimum age requirements. Though the focus continues to be on children, 4 Paws began placing Veterans’ Assistance Dogs in 2011, and recently began placing Alzheimer’s Assistance Dogs as well.

Ms. Greene is the author of five other nonfiction books: Praying for Sheetrock, The Temple Bombing, Last Man Out, There Is No Me Without You, and No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Book Award nominations, and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Praying for Sheetrock was named one of the Top 100 Works of American Journalism of the 20th Century.

A graduate of Oberlin College, Ms. Greene was a childhood resident of Dayton, Ohio; throughout her high school years she worked as a page at the Dayton Metro Library’s former Northtown-Shiloh Branch. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband, children, and beloved rescue dogs Zizou, Henry, and Vinny (and one fed-up cat, Remy).

“I'm so happy to be returning to Dayton for the Big Read,” said Greene. “One of my greatest regrets in completing The Underdogs research and writing was that it reduced the number of occasions to fly home, stay with my brother and sister-in-law in Oakwood, visit Karen and 4 Paws, and catch up with old Shiloh School and Meadowdale High School friends. I'm always thrilled to return.”

For more information on Melissa Fay Greene’s program at the Library, call 937.463.2665 or visit For more information about the Big Read, visit

The Big Read is sponsored by:

Books and Co
Bradford Public Library
Dayton Metro Library
Franklin-Springboro Public Library
Germantown Public Library
Greene County Public Library
Kettering College
New Carlisle Public Library
Project READ
Sinclair Community College
Tipp City Public Library
Troy-Miami County Public Library
University of Dayton
Washington-Centerville Public Library
Wright Memorial Public Library
Wright State University Libraries