'Not good enough for my grandchildren'

Sep 13, 2016

Paola Gianturco travels all over the world, writing books about women and girls. About 10 years ago, she was in Kenya interviewing women for a book she was working on. For some small talk before each interview, she asked each woman how many children she had.

The first woman told Ginaturco she had three, and 10 adopted. The second told her she had 5, and 15 adopted. The next said she had four and 12 adopted. Gianturco says all the women she spoke with answered the same way.

“And I suddenly realized that what they were telling me was that they were raising their grandchildren,” she says. “They had adopted them when their own children had died of AIDS.”

In fact all over the continent of Africa, Paola Gianturco discovered grandmothers raising children orphaned by AIDS. She says she left Africa thinking, “The future of this continent rests in the hands of the grandmothers.”

Gianturco is a grandmother herself, and she wondered what grandmothers were doing in other places as well.

For her book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon, Gianturco documents grandmother groups in 15 countries on five continents. She says there are groups of activist grandmothers working on everything from environmental issues, to poverty, to health— the full scope of issues facing women, their families, communities, countries, and world.

“What I discovered…virtually universally, was that grandmothers look out at our troubled world, and say, ‘Not good enough for my grandchildren,’” says Gianturco. 

Paola Gianturco will open the National Writers Series 2016 Fall lineup on September 17, with a conversation about her book in Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center. The museum will also host an exhibition highlighting the work of some of the women covered in Gianturco’s book. The exhibit will run through the end of the year.