CNN Internation Anchor Zain Asher [left] and Moderator Nia Black discussing Asher's new memoir at SAiD Institute Photo: Laura Onyeneho

Zain Ejiofor Asher.

Many recognize her as CNN International One World anchor and the sister of Oscar nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 years a Slave).

Now Asher is expanding her gift for storytelling as an author with her first memoir “Where the Children Take Us”. She was the guest of honor at Houston’s SAiD Institute Pan African Library in partnership with the Nigerian-American Multicultural Council for its Shared Journey initiative.

She spoke to a pack room of community members about the memoir and the story of her mother Obiajulu Justina Ejiofor’s fight to raise four children as widowed Nigerian immigrant in South London. She drew from her experience of the tragic death of her father who embarked on a road trip in Nigeria with Asher’s brother then 11-year-old Chiwetel in the vehicle in September1989. They both were involved in a car crash that ultimately took the life of her father and spared the life of her brother.

When Asher’s mother received the call, that both of her husband and son were involved in the crash, but didn’t know which one of them were dead, she flew 4,000 miles to verify who it was. She was pregnant with her fourth child at the time and since then she struggled with raising her children while mourning the death of the love of her life.

Ejiofor went through extraordinary lengths to ensure her children had a good quality of life and were successful. That has proven to be true despite the odds. Her children exceeded all expectations, one CNN anchor, an Oscar nominated actor, a medical doctor, and a thriving entrepreneur.

Her tough love parenting strategies and life philosophies helped her children overcome pressures of crime, poverty, and prejudice that Black people all of the world face daily.

Here are a couple of gems Asher’s mother taught her that you can apply to your everyday life.


“She would look for articles in newspapers that showcased Nigerians who had something amazing, and people from West Africa, African Americans… anybody who looked like us who had really excelled in their chosen field. She would find articles in major newspapers, and anytime she saw a Nigerian she would cut the article out and she would plaster it all over our walls. So, we would come home and be bombarded with image after image after image of Black success stories. It was so powerful; because we had experienced racism growing up in England, feeling like we weren’t good enough, we felt at times like we didn’t have a voice and our opinions didn’t matter. She [her mom] drilled into us that these people in the articles were just like us and if we work as hard as they did, you could have what they had.”


“Another thing my mother did was what she called the eight-hour rule. She would make us divide our day into three equal parts. Obviously, a day has 24 hours… and she would say to us eight hours should be spent sleeping…in school…and working towards your dreams. Again, this was another powerful lesson for us because her whole theory about life was that success is heavily dependent on how you spend you spare time. If you ask anybody how many hours did you sleep, you would all be able to tell me. If I asked you how many hours did you spend in the office on a Friday…you would be able to tell me, but if I asked you how you spent your last eight hours, it just disappears all the different things you have to do making dinner or putting the kids to bed.

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Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...