Paola Gianturco found the topic for her fifth book of photojournalism while talking to women in Kenya. To break the ice, she casually asked about their children, and she heard answers like this: “Two, and five adopted.” “Three, and nine adopted. “Five, and 15 adopted.”
That’s when she realized these women were raising their grandchildren, who were orphaned in the AIDS epidemic.
Gianturco began reporting on a worldwide movement of activist grandmothers, which she says is mostly unheralded in the United States. She talked to rural Indian grandmothers who are learning how to be engineers so they could return to their villages and install solar power. She talked to Argentine grandmothers who are part of a storytelling corps of literacy volunteers in local schools.
Gianturco and her resulting project, “Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon,” will be part of the Utah Humanities Council’s Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium.
At book events in the year since “Grandmother Power” was released (powerHouse books, $49.95), she has listened to women in her audiences discussing local issues, such as organizing to combat gun violence in Colorado, or genetically modified seeds in Oregon.
What are the issues Utah grandmothers are most concerned about? Gianturco hopes to find out at Saturday’s talk.
The author is also promoting another level of activism with her book, as she is donating 100 percent of her author’s royalties to the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. The effort links Canadian grandmothers with African grandmothers raising AIDS orphans.
The 16th annual Utah Humanities Council’s Book Festival sponsors events throughout the state, with a two-day kickoff weekend at Salt Lake City’s Library Square, 200 E. 400 South, on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28-29. Events will include daily concerts, a poetry slam, a rare books roundup and scores of author talks and panels. For a complete schedule and alphabetical listing of author talks throughout the city and state, visit utahhumanities.org/BookFestival.htm.
Runners interested in joining Harvard professor Daniel E. Lieberman (“The Barefoot Professor”) on a run Friday, Oct. 4 should make a reservation at www.nhmu.utah.edu/run-daniel-lieberman.