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News anchor Zain Asher writes uplifting memoir

Doouglass K Daniel

AP – In recounting her family’s struggle to carry on after her father’s unexpected death, Zain E Asher has written a handbook for hope when none seems possible.

Asher’s face is familiar around the globe as the anchor of CNN International’s One World. So is her brother’s, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of the Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave and praised for writing and directing the Netflix film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Their sister, Kandibe, a medical doctor, and brother, Obinze, an entrepreneur, have made marks in their own fields.

However, the star of Asher’s memoir, Where the Children Take Us, is their mother.

Obiajulu Justina Ejiofor was raising a family in London when a car accident killed her husband, Arinze, a medical student, and critically injured son Chiwetel, then 11.

With a baby on the way, she had to cope with the loss of her childhood sweetheart, running a neighbourhood pharmacy and, most importantly, the care of their young children. Grief-stricken and exhausted, she feared she was failing them.

But Obiajulu had faced challenges before. As a child, she lived through political and ethnic division during Nigeria’s bloody civil war, then moved with Arinze to London at 18 with little more than a desire to build a life together. Working at a laundry, she was inspired by another Nigerian woman to explore further possibilities. Soon, Obiajulu was setting her sights on earning a pharmacy degree, obtaining a loan and opening her own business, all thanks to the first “uplifter” in her new life.

In the wake of tragedy, Asher’s mother became her family’s uplifter by wielding the firm hand of a parent who would not allow her children to let themselves down. Even after long days at the pharmacy, Obiajulu would oversee their studies, engage them in a dinnertime book club, and put the baby to bed. She established the commitment to get ahead in the world through education and intense discipline.

Asher was pushed to visit Oxford University at 13, her mother pointing to students and telling her, “That could be you someday”. When her studies fell short of Oxford-worthy grades because of the distractions of television and telephone, Obiajulu took away the TV set and installed a pay phone in the hallway. In time Asher was accepted into Oxford – and later to Columbia University to study journalism. The lessons from her mother helped her forge a successful career in TV news.

“You aren’t competing with them,” her mother said when Asher talked about rivals. “Prepare as well as you can so you can be your best, not their best.” Her brother Obinze once remarked that Asher was set for life when she was accepted at Oxford, noting how she had achieved the unimaginable.

With Where the Children Take Us, all can learn from Zain Asher, whose memoir adds her name to the newest of uplifters.