Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union

Author:

Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu

Title:

Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union

Publisher:

Indy

Nataka Books Reviews: 

Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union

One of the funniest biographies read recently was Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union by Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu.  Some people had trouble pronouncing her name and she recounts: "I have had (has been called) Anio...Ania...what?..Onion?" Some people struggled to say Anionwu, now Dame Anionwu of course.


This is a moving and inspriting biography, a reminder of what the genre should be: it is only worth writing a biography if you have actually achieved something and made a clear difference, produced an new invention, produced new knowledge or created a new movement and society for example. Dame Anionwu had a difficult beginning with the separation from her mother (in the days when mixed race couples and the resulting children were unwanted by some societies), then eventually meeting with her Nigerian diplomat father and the extended family. Her mother never abandoned her and fought hard to get around society's restrictions of the day !


On a personal note, Dame Anionwu had always been hands on, learning by doing through her training as a nurse. When she need to provid added care, that is what launched her reearch interest in sickle cell aneamia ending up with a PhD. Not the other way round where one begins with with post graduate studies then fitting an interest or a practical application later. Hers was always driven by the need to improve other people's lives, and when answers were not readily available, she duly conducted the research and wrote the results up.


It is also the first time we read about Mary Seacole, more prominent in the media these days, but before that, only known by a few compared to Nightingale. Dame Aniounwu campaigned for the statue of Mary Seacole which has resulted in more books about her being published recently. What an achievement as a nurse, a scholar and a campaigner.


The book is thorougly fascinating and the humour Elizabeth Nnkeka employs helps the reader along. You will read this book in a few days because it is impossible to put down after the first few pages. Reminded of two occasions described in the book, one when Nnkena travelled to Paris on a scooter with her suitcase on the side. Such determination ! And naivety of the young. And the other involves the passing of her father and will settlement. Her voice is generous even to those who stand in her way. Not surprised Dame Anionwu has achieved such success. Humble, determined, single minded with a goal ! This book is a gift to all and had it not been written, it would have been a loss not dissimialr to how we forgot Mary Seacole. 


-- Nataka Books Review

Nataka Books Full Review: 

Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union

‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union’ are the memoirs of Professor Elizabeth Anionwu.
It’s 1947 and a clever, sheltered Catholic girl of Liverpool Irish working class heritage is studying Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. She is the first one in her family to go to university – and then she discovers that she’s pregnant. The father is also a student at Cambridge, studying law. And he is black.
The fallout from their affair is dramatic, but despite pressure to give up her baby for adoption, the young woman has other ideas. Their daughter Elizabeth grows up to be a Professor of Nursing at the University of West London – but there are many twists and turns along the way. What does it mean to be mixed race in Britain? Who are you when told that your origins are 'half Nigerian, half Irish’? Who are you, growing up as a child in care for nine years and without knowing your father? Then living with your mother, being subjected to physical abuse by your stepfather and then being rescued?
This incredible story charts a roller coaster journey from the English Midlands to Nigeria, and from suburban health visiting to political activism and radical nursing. At the same time it brings social history to life – think ‘Philomena meets Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father’! This is a heart-warming and inspiring book about childhood, searching for identity, family, friendship, hope and what makes us who we are.


--Blurb


One of the funniest biographies read recently was Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union by Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu.  Some people had trouble pronouncing her name and she recounts: "I have had (has been called) Anio...Ania...what?..Onion?" Some people struggled to say Anionwu, now Dame Anionwu of course.


This is a moving and inspriting biography, a reminder of what the genre should be: it is only worth writing a biography if you have actually achieved something and made a clear difference, produced an new invention, produced new knowledge or created a new movement and society for example. Dame Anionwu had a difficult beginning with the separation from her mother (in the days when mixed race couples and the resulting children were unwanted by some societies), then eventually meeting with her Nigerian diplomat father and the extended family. Her mother never abandoned her and fought hard to get around society's restrictions of the day !


On a personal note, Dame Anionwu had always been hands on, learning by doing through her training as a nurse. When she need to provid added care, that is what launched her reearch interest in sickle cell aneamia ending up with a PhD. Not the other way round where one begins with with post graduate studies then fitting an interest or a practical application later. Hers was always driven by the need to improve other people's lives, and when answers were not readily available, she duly conducted the research and wrote the results up.


It is also the first time we read about Mary Seacole, more prominent in the media these days, but before that, only known by a few compared to Nightingale. Dame Aniounwu campaigned for the statue of Mary Seacole which has resulted in more books about her being published recently. What an achievement as a nurse, a scholar and a campaigner.


The book is thorougly fascinating and the humour Elizabeth Nnkeka employs helps the reader along. You will read this book in a few days because it is impossible to put down after the first few pages. Reminded of two occasions described in the book, one when Nnkena travelled to Paris on a scooter with her suitcase on the side. Such determination ! And naivety of the young. And the other involves the passing of her father and will settlement. Her voice is generous even to those who stand in her way. Not surprised Dame Anionwu has achieved such success. Humble, determined, single minded with a goal ! This book is a gift to all and had it not been written, it would have been a loss not dissimialr to how we forgot Mary Seacole. 


-- Nataka Books Review