A Mother's Debt: The True Story of an African Orphan

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AuthorHouse, Nov 29, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 168 pages
This is a true story from deepest Africa. In 1954 a healthy baby girl is born in unusual circumstances and her mother dies, never regaining consciousness. Neither is able to make even the briefest eye contact with the other despite having been as one for nine months. The little girls father, distraught at his wifes death, cannot bear to take his daughter home and she is left in the care of the hospital authorities. She is technically an orphan, and officially becomes one, when her father dies 5 years later. During this 5 year period the father remarries and makes amends by taking the young girl home and bonding with her and, in this brief period, they grow to love each other. However, the stepmother feels no affinity towards her and a fractious relationship between the two females descends into real hate. This is exacerbated by the fact that, in Nigeria, the girl is considered to be a witch and, worse, the murderer of her mother. She must work for anyone but belongs to no-one and is fed, accommodated, and educated only on the whim of numerous relatives, aunties, uncles, and the grandfathers whom she loves the most. But when the grandfathers die she is cast into the abyss of African custom and predatory males and, while developing great beauty, builds incredible tactics and defences to enable her to survive, against the odds. Ironically, she is saved by a brutal war when, at the tender age of 13, she becomes a child soldier spy and an active service heroine to her comrades, who reward this by discharging her after wrongly accusing her of being a saboteur (turncoat) following her capture and torture by the enemy. This war, so detrimental to most of the population of Biafra, finally shapes her future and, surviving where a million have died, she goes on to struggle through many more adversities (complicated by a web of pagan beliefs, superstition, Christianity and the vestiges of colonialism) to find temporary security on many occasions, but inevitably returning to the seemingly unequal contest. Five well-balanced and variously successful children will testify that their place in the world was fashioned by the dedication, love and sense of purpose of this extraordinary woman. But it doesnt end there..

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A moving story from a brave and strong woman. A moving read for those interested in the war and the personal stories that came from it

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About the author (2012)

Chioma was born into the affluent Oparaji family of high status, the last of nine children and the only girl. She should have been assured of a comfortable and loving upbringing surrounded by the extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, traditionally living together in the family compound in the village of Ezuhu Nguru, Eastern Nigeria. Instead, cruelly orphaned and being much younger than her brothers, she existed at subsistence level throughout the early years of her childhood eventually escaping from the status of child witch at the age of 13 to take part in the Biafran War. Subsequently she returned to the struggle for survival in post-war Biafra and with a growing family of her own was, at the age of 21 ready to transform her life. In 1986 she decided to move her family to England which she considered the ideal place to further her lifestyle and the education of her 5 children. This was against the strong advice of her husband. In some ways this was a good idea and in others it was a disaster and she was repeatedly thrown back into the struggles of her past. The worst was the ending of the marriage to her golden man – he couldn’t face London and returned to his other love, Africa. She now lives in Brixton, London and this year has been chosen as a London Ambassador for the 2012 Olympic Games. She has much more to give, tirelessly working for her charity ‘Ladies of Substance’, an organisation dedicated to helping black families lost in the turbulence of inner city London with its racial undertones and gang culture.

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