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Family & Relationships Grandparenting

Powered by Love

A Grandmothers' Movement to End AIDS in Africa

by (author) Joanna Henry & Ilana Landsberg-Lewis

photographs by Alexis MacDonald

edited by Michele Landsberg

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2017
Grandparenting, Women's Studies, Developing Countries, Portraits
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price

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Winner, 2018 Best Atlantic Published Book Award
A National Bestseller

By the time the AIDS pandemic in Africa had reached its height in the early 2000s, millions of children had been orphaned. In the face of overwhelming loss, the grandmothers of Africa stepped in to hold families and communities together. Author Joanna Henry and photographer Alexis MacDonald visited eight African countries, interviewing and photographing hundreds of grandmothers (including Sarah Obama, Barack Obama's grandmother) who are reclaiming hope and resurrecting lives. The extraordinary images and stories of resourceful women fighting for a better future make Powered by Love an inspiration for everyone.

Writes journalist-social activist Michele Landsberg, "We thought we knew what was happening in Africa when the AIDS pandemic raged across the continent, sweeping away 35 million lives. But we never knew it the way this book reveals it, in the shockingly intimate voices of the grandmothers who had to save the abandoned children when no one else was left alive. These voices will leap straight into your heart. Their unguarded faces, in portraits that glow with character, pain and humour, will captivate you."

In 2006, the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched a campaign to engage Canadian grandmothers to support their African sisters. The Grandmothers Campaign, now a movement 10,000 strong, has raised over $25 million that has gone directly into the hands of African grandmothers and their grassroots organizations. Powered by Love joins this campaign by telling the story of these indomitable women and by directing all royalties from the sale of the book to African grandmothers raising children orphaned by AIDS.

About the authors

Whether it was floods in Mozambique or famine in Malawi, Joanna Henry's job as part of a disaster aid team in Africa began to make her feel part of a "colonizing" power, fuelled by and serving the interests of western nations. Searching for a better way, she discovered and joined the "feminist, ethical, founded on equity" work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Her profoundly felt dedication to interviewing the African grandmothers and writing this books was truly "Powered by Love." This is Joanna's first book.

Joanna Henry's profile page

Ilana Landsberg-Lewis has spent her entire adult life engaged in the struggle for the rights of women and girls. From her early days as a human rights lawyer to her years at UNIFEM, Ilana has worked with women's groups around the world and has learned that no amount of so-called expertise can replace that of women at the frontlines of their own struggle for justice. Ilana has been the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation since she founded it with her father in 2003. She has been deeply honoured and grateful to learn from the indomitable grandmothers of this remarkable movement the world over.

Ilana Landsberg-Lewis' profile page

Alexis MacDonald is the director of external relations for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and a Toronto-based photographer.

Alexis MacDonald's profile page

Michele Landsberg began her career with The Globe and Mail in the 1960s and moved to Chatelaine Magazine in the 70s, under the editorship of Doris Anderson, before moving to the Star. She is the author of three best-selling books: Women and Children First, Michele Landsberg’s Guide to Children’s Books and “This is New York, Honey!”. She continues her work as an activist, and is a regular reviewer of children’s books on CBC Radio. Michele lives in Toronto with her husband, Stephen Lewis.

Michele Landsberg's profile page


  • Winner, Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic Published Book Award
  • Winner, A <i>Toronto Star</i> bestseller
  • Unknown, A CBC Books #1 bestseller
  • Unknown, One of the top-selling Canadian nonfiction books of the year

Editorial Reviews

"An extraordinarily moving book, filled to the brim with every extreme of the human condition, from unimaginable loss to indescribable love and profound solidarity. This is a movement that re-defines what it means to be a grandmother - and inpires us to discover the power we have as women when we join hands across continents in struggle."

Jane Fonda

"Powered by Love is humbling and devastating and galvanising. It is testament not only to the power of love but to the power of older women to change the world."

<i>Understorey Magazine</i>

"Powered by Love brings the collective power of love and unity to life in an otherwise bleak world…a must read."

<i>The Brunswickan</i>

"The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign is truly an inspiring and innovative movement, mobilizing a grandmother's fierce love for her family to challenge AIDS in Africa. Powered by Love shares heartfelt testimonies of women who transformed their loss into a powerful narrative."

Kofi Annan Foundation

"This is where the heart of Feminism beats for me... If you want to really know about the strength of Feminine power, check out this amazing book."

Annie Lennox

"Powered by Love is a book that will both break your heart wide open and inspire you."

<i>A&U Magazine</i>

"If you’re looking for a book that renews your faith in humanity, this is it."

<i>Atlantic Books Today</i>

"Powered by Love is the untold account of AIDS in Africa. And it’s an inspired glimpse into a social movement that has held hands, wiped tears, emboldened communities, provided hope and helped sustain a continent."

<i>See Change Magazine</i>

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