I Am Because We Are (Book)

Posted by LuLa On Friday, April 03, 2009

"I am grateful to the author, Kristen Ashburn, for her remarkable ability to capture the truth." Madonna.

Through breathtaking images and the poignant voices of its subjects, I AM BECAUSE WE ARE provides an intimate look at the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The book introduces its readers to seven Malawian children orphaned by AIDS. These seven children are just a handful of the 1 million AIDS orphans in Malawi, a country of only 13 million people.

“I AM BECAUSE WE ARE is a book that touches the heart. In photographing the grieving, devastated, still beautiful, children of Malawi, victims of the AIDS epidemic that has murdered their parents, Kristen Ashburn gives everyone on the planet the opportunity to come to the aid of those most bereaved and helpless in this world,” said Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. “It is a rare gift she gives: for we know in our deepest emotions that without the world coming to the defense and care of these children, the least of these, there will be no world peace.”

The book is a companion to the documentary film of the same name, produced and written by Madonna and directed by Nathan Rissman. The film features interviews with President Bill Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu, economist Jeffrey Sachs and many others, and was called, “a shocking and incredibly moving film” by the London Times, and “too valuable to ignore” by Time Out New York, among other rave reviews.

Both the book and film share the stories and images of children living with the effects of HIV/AIDS. Joyce, a 12-year-old, is forced to care for her younger siblings while her parents die of AIDS; Fanzio, an orphan at 14, declares that he will rise above his own difficulties and ultimately finds help to do so; Sinode, an HIV-positive 6-year old, is carried for hours by bicycle to get the care he needs.

Each child’s story is accompanied by a series of powerful photographs by photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, images that – in the words of Madonna – capture “the paradox of beauty and tragedy that exists today in Malawi and many other countries in Africa.” Ashburn has photographed the impact of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa for almost a decade and brings her passion for the issue to bear on every image.

I AM BECAUSE WE ARE takes its title from the traditional African philosophy of ubuntu which speaks to the interconnectedness of humanity, reminding us that the fate of AIDS orphans in Malawi is inextricably tied into our own, that we all rise or fall together.

Across Africa, more than 12 million children have faced the same uncertain fate as these Malawian orphans. With the authors’ proceeds from the book going to Raising Malawi, a non-profit organization working to help give orphans a better life in that country, the book also provides a ready opportunity for each of us to help make a difference.

“Kristen Ashburn has the rare gift of finding dignity in the midst of suffering, and strength in what ought to be despair,” noted Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliners. “I Am Because We Are should not be hopeful. But it is.”


Book launch / Raising Malawi Fundraiser

On April 2nd 2009 from 6pm to 9pm, a book launch and fundraising event will be held at the PowerHouse Arena in Dumbo, Brooklyn by invitation only. The evening will feature a lightbox installation of images from the book and an online auction to raise funds for The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls. Exhibition is open to the public from March 25th onward.

The Academy provides the means for impoverished girls to realize the full range of their intellectual and creative potentials. It will be staffed primarily by Malawian nationals and guided by a Malawian headmistress who will be fully involved in all aspects of the school’s development.

Every year, the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls will admit 66 students, selected from each of the 33 districts in the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Malawi. To qualify as a candidate, applicants will undergo a formal entrance evaluation where young women will be chosen for both academic ability and propensity for leadership. Applicants will also be chosen based on need, and candidates will be selected only from households below a designated income level.

For more information visit www.iambecausewearebook.com

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