Buchi Emecheta

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July21 Buchi EmechetaFlorence Onyebuchi "Buchi" Emecheta OBE (July 21, 1944 – 25 January 25, 2017) was a Nigerian-born novelist. Buchi Emechetal also wrote plays and an autobiography, as well as works for children. She was the author of more than 20 books, including Second Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Most of her early novels were published by Allison and Busby, where her editor was Margaret Busby.

Emecheta's themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education gained recognition from critics and honours. She once described her stories as "stories of the world, where women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical." Her works explore the tension between tradition and modernity.She has been characterized as "the first successful black woman novelist living in Britain after 1948".


  • In all my novels… I deal with the many problems and prejudices which exist for Black people in Britain today.
  • I believe it is important to speak to your readers in person... to enable people to have a whole picture of me; I have to both write and speak. I view my role as a writer and also as an oral communicator.
  • But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We, women, subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man's world, which women will always help to build.”
    • On the female gender (as quoted in [1]).
  • Few things are as bad as a guilty conscience.
    • Speaking on morality [2]
  • Being a woman writer, I would be deceiving myself if I said I write completely through the eye of a man. There’s nothing bad in it, but that does not make me a feminist writer. I hate that name. The tag is from the Western world – like we are called the Third World.
    • Speaking on her writing not as a feminist as quoted in "Zikoko").
  • The first book I wrote was The Bride Price which was a romantic book, but my husband burnt the book when he saw it. I was the typical African woman, I’d done this privately, I wanted him to look at it, approve it and he said he wouldn’t read it.
    • On her tough marriage [3].
  • I am a woman and a woman of Africa. I am a daughter of Nigeria and if she is in shame, I shall stay and mourn with her in shame.
    • Buchi Emecheta speaking on being a Nigerian woman [4].

Head Above Water (1994)[edit]

  • When has it ever been a virtue to be rich in wealth and poor in people?' The relatives nodded. They understood her very well- why have heaven an earth when you have no one to share it with?
  • 1975 was International Women's Year. I had never heard the word 'feminism' before then. I was writing my books from the experiences of my own life and from watching and studying the lives of those around me in general. I did not know that writing the way I was, was putting me into a special category.
  • Writers simply have to write, and not worry so much about what people think, because public opinion is such a difficult horse to ride.
  • “Living entirely off writing is a precarious existence and money is always short, bit with careful management and planning I found I could keep my head and those of my family, through God's grace, above water.”[5]
  • Relatives watching wanted and expected me to break down and cry, thereby devaluing my inner sorrow.[6]
  • “When people are not educated enough for the job market, it is like a time bomb ticking away which could explode in the streets.”[7]
  • I thought at one time I would be thrown out. But I was not.[8]
  • An uneducated person has little chance of happiness. [9]
  • I want to leave my boring job because I want to write, because I want to catch up with goings on in the theatre, because I want to travel and because I want to be with my family. [10]
  • The uneducated man has no such choices. Once he has lost his boring job, he feels he's lost his life. That is unfair.[11]

The Joys of Motherhood (1979)[edit]

  • God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage? she prayed desperately.
  • In Ibuza sons help their father more than they help their mother. A mother's joy is only in the name. She worries over them, looks after them when they are small; but in the actual help on the farm, the upholding of the family name, all belong to the father.
  • God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody's appendage? ... when will I be free?
  • Nnu Ego was like those not-so well-informed Christians who,promised the Kingdom of Heaven,believed that it was literally just round the corner and that Jesus Christ was coming on the very morrow. Many of them would hardly contribute anything ton this world,reasoning, "What is the use? Christ will come soon" They became so insulated in their beliefs that not only would they have little to do with ordinary sinners,people going about their daily work, they even pitied them and in many cases looked down on them because the Kingdom of God was not for the likes of them. Maybe this was a protective mechanism devised to save them from realities too painful to accept.
  • Nnaife did not realise that Dr Meers's laughter was inspired by that type of wickedness that reduces any man, white or black, intelligent or not, to a new low; lower than the basest of animals, for animals at least respected each other's feelings, each other's dignity.
  • On her way back to their room, it occurred to Nnu Ego that she was a prisoner, imprisoned by her love for her children, imprisoned by her role as the senior wife. She was not even expected to demand more money for her family; that was considered below the standard expected of a woman in her position. It was not fair, she felt, the way men cleverly used a woman’s sense of responsability to actually enslave her. They knew that the traditional wife like herself would never dream of leaving her children.”
  • “A man is never ugly".”[17]
  • “Don't blame anyone for what has happened to your father. Things have changed drastically since the days of his own youth,but he has refused to see the changes...The fact is that parents get only reflected glory from their children nowadays,whereas your father has invested in all of you, just as his father invested in him so that he could help on the farm. Your father forgot that he himself left the family farm to come to this place.”[18]
  • “Every woman should be free to live the life she chooses.”[19]
  • “The fear of everybody was that the man might give in and say, "After all, it's her life." However a thing like that is not permitted in Nigeria; you are simply not allowed to commit suicide in peace, because everyone is responsible for the other person. Foreigners may call us a nation of busybodies, but to us, an individual's life belongs to the community and not just to him or her.”[20]
  • Yet the more I think about it the more I realise that we women set impossible standards for ourselves.[21]
  • I cannot live up to your standards. [22]
  • “Some parents, especially those who have many children from different wives, may reject a bad son, a master may reject a wicked servant, a wife may go so far as to abandon a bad husband, but a mother can never, never reject her son. If he is convicted, she will be condemned alongside him.”[23]
  • “The more I think about it, the more I realize that we, women, set impossible models for ourselves. That we make life intolerable for each other. I can't live up to our role models, older wife. That’s why I need to create my own.”[24]

Second Class Citizen (1974)[edit]

  • At home in Nigeria, all a mother had to do for a baby was wash and feed him and, if he was fidgety, strap him onto her back and carry on with her work while that baby slept.
  • The leaves were still on the trees but were becoming dry, perched like birds ready to fly off.
  • Dreams soon assume substance
  • Adah could not stop thinking about her discovery that the whites were just as fallible as everyone else. There were bad whites and good whites, just as there were bad blacks and good blacks! Why then did they claim to be superior?
  • “She did not delude herself into expecting Francis to love her. He had never been taught how to love, but had an arresting way of looking pleased at Adah's achievements.”[27]
  • “One thing she did know was the greatest book on human psychology is the Bible. If you were lazy and did not wish to work, or if you had failed to make your way in society, you could always say, 'My kingdom is not of this world.' If you were a jet-set woman who believed in sleeping around, VD or no VD, you could always say Mary Magdalene had no husband, but didn't she wash the feet of Our Lord? Wasn't she the first person to see our risen saviour? If, in the other hand, you believed in the inferiority of the blacks, you could always say, 'Slaves, obey your masters.' It is a mysterious book, one of the greatest of all books, if not the greatest. Hasn't it got all the answers?”[28]
  • “Marriage is lovely when it works, but if it does not, should one condemn oneself ? I stopped feeling guilty for being me.”[29]
  • “She had gambled with marriage, just like most people, but she had gambled unluckily and had lost.”[30]
  • “The concept of whiteness could cover a multitude of sins.”[31]
  • “Typical Igbo psychology; men never do wrong, only the women; they have to beg for forgiveness, because they are bought, paid for and must remain like that, silent, obedient slaves.”[32]
  • “She, who only a few months previously would have accepted nothing but the best, had by now been conditioned to expect inferior things. She was now learning to suspect anything beautiful and pure. Those things were for the whites, not the blacks.”[33]

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