Emecheta, Buchi

Emecheta, Buchi

Emecheta, Buchi, 1944-, Nigerian novelist, b. Lagos as Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta. In 1962 she accompanied her husband to England, where she had five children. After leaving her husband, she remained in England and wrote novels about the struggles of African women moving from traditional to modern roles in societies where men have little respect for them. Her first two novels, drawn from her own experiences, In the Ditch (1972) and Second Class Citizen (1974), were published together as Adah's Story (1983). Other novels are set in Nigeria and are highly critical of the treatment of African women. These include The Bride Price (1976), the ironically titled Joys of Motherhood (1979), The Family (1990), and Kehinde (1994). She also writes children's stories.

See her autobiography Head above Water (1986); studies by M. Umeh, ed. (1994), K. Fishburn (1995), and J. F. Uraizee (1999).

Dr. Buchi Emecheta (born July 21 1944 in Nigeria) is a prolific African novelist who has published over 20 books, plays and shorts, including the seminal works, Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Her strong themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education have won her considerable critical acclaim and honorary awards, including an Order of the British Empire in 2005. Dr. Emecheta’s timeless writing continues to resonate with readers across the globe.

Early life.

(Florence Onye) Buchi Emecheta was born on July 21 1944) in Lagos to Igbo parents, Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta and Jeremy Nwabudinke. While not much is known about her mother, it is documented that her father was a railway worker toiling under dangerous circumstances in the 1940s. Due to gender bias of the times, a young Buchi was initially kept at home while her younger brother was sent to school; but after persuading her parents to consider the benefits of her education, Buchi spent her early childhood at an all-girl's missionary school. Tragedy came when her father died when she was nine years old. A year later, Buchi received full scholarship to the Methodist Girls School where she remained until she married to Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was eleven. Buchi was sixteen years old. Onwordi immediately moved to London to attend university and Buchi joined him in 1962. Emecheta Buchi bore five children in six years but it was an unhappy, oft-violent marriage. To keep her sanity, Emecheta wrote in her spare time; however, her husband was deeply suspicious of her writing and he ultimately burned her first manuscript. At the age of twenty-two, while working as a librarian at the British Museum, Dr. Emecheta found the courage to leave her husband and supported all five children while earning a BSc degree in sociology at the University of London. She also wrote prolifically, publishing articles about Black British life in several journals and newspapers. In (1972) she published her first book of shorts, In the Ditch. The semi-autobiographical book chronicled the struggles of a main character named Adah, who is forced to live in a housing estate while working as a librarian to support her five children.

Early career.

From 1965 to 1969, Dr. Emecheta worked as a library office for the British Museum in London. From 1969 to 1976 she was youth worker and sociologist for the Inner London Education Authority. She then visited the United States and was a community worker in Camden, NJ. from 1976 to 1978.

As a successful author and visiting professor and lecturer, Dr. Emecheta has traveled throughout the world. From 19721to 1979 she visited several American universities, including Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From 1980 to 1981, she was the senior resident fellow and visiting professor of English, University of Calabar, Nigeria. 1982 saw her lecture at Yale University, and the University of London, respectively, as well as a fellowship at the University of London in 1986.


Dr. Emecheta 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."

From 1982 to 1983 Emecheta, together with her journalist son, Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company, with the intent was to promote and financially support Black artists.


Dr. Emecheta's literary contemporaries include many of the finest writers on the 20th century, including:

Personal life.

After moving to London in 1962, Emecheta separated from her husband Sylvester Onwordi in 1966. The couple had five children together: Florence, Sylvester, Jake, Christy and Alice.


  • B.Sc. (with honors), University of London, 1972
  • New Statesman Jock Campbell Award for literature by new or unregarded talent from Africa or the Caribbean, 1978
  • New Statesman Jock Campbell Award for Commonwealth Writers, The Slave Girl, 1979
  • Best Black British Writer 1978
  • British Home Secretary's Advisory Council on Race, 1979 – current
  • Arts Council of Great Britain - 1982 to 1983
  • One of the Best British Young Writers, 1983
  • PhD, University of London, 1991


Collected Shorts and Anthologies

  • In the Ditch (London: Allison & Busby, 1972)
  • Adah's Story [In the Ditch/Second-Class Citizen] (London: Allison & Busby, 1983)


  • Second-Class Citizen (London: Allison & Busby, 1974)
  • The Bride Price (London: Allison & Busby, 1976)
  • The Slave Girl (London: Allison & Busby, 1977) – winner of the 1979 Jock Campbell Award
  • The Joys of Motherhood (London: Allison & Busby, 1979)
  • The Moonlit Bride (Oxford University Press, 1976)
  • Our Own Freedom (Photographs by Maggie Murray), (Sheba, 1981)
  • Destination Biafra (London: Allison & Busby, 1982)
  • Naira Power (1982)
  • The Rape of Shavi (1984)
  • Double Yoke (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1983)
  • Gwendolen (1989)
  • Kehinde
  • The New Tribe

Children’s/Young Adults.

  • Titch the Cat (London: Allison & Busby, 1979)
  • Nowhere to Play (London: Allison & Busby, 1980)
  • The Wrestling Match (1980)


  • A Kind of Marriage BBC television
  • Family Bargain BBC television, 1987


  • Observations of the London Poor (1971 article that became the novel In the Ditch)
  • Black Scholar, November-December, (1985), p. 51.
  • Head Above Water (1986; autobiography)
  • Criticism and Ideology, (1988)
  • Essence, August, (1990), p. 50.
  • New York Times Book Review, April 29, (1990).
  • Publishers Weekly, February 16 (1990), p. 73; reprinted February 7, (1994), p. 84.
  • World Literature Today, Autumn (1994), p. 867.


  • Anthony, Barthelemy. Western Time, African Lives : Time in the Novels of Buchi Emecheta, Callaloo, Vol. 12, Issue 3 (1989), pp. 559-574.
  • Bruner, Charlotte, and David Bruner. Buchi Emecheta and Maryse Conde : Contemporary Writing from Africa and the Caribbean. World Literature Today, 59 (1985), pp. 9-13.
  • Christian, Barbara. Black Feminist Criticism, (New York: Pergamon, 1985)
  • Derrickson, Teresa, Class, Culture, and the Colonial Context: The Status of Women in Buchi Emecheta's the Joys of Motherhood, International Fiction Review, (2002).
  • Emecheta, Buchi, Head above Water (1986)
  • Fishburn, Katherine, Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations, Contributions to the Study of World Literature, Number 61, (Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press, 1995)
  • Jahn, Janhenz. Who's Who in African Literature (Eerdman, 1972), pp. 209-211.
  • Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider.Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.
  • Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1982.
  • Mother Africa: African Women and the Land in West African Literature, African Horizons: The Landscapes of African Fiction, (Greenwood Press, 1998), pp. 35-54.
  • Ogunyemi, Chickwenye Okonjo. "The Shaping of a Self: A Study of Buchi Emecheta's Novels," Komparatische Hefte.
  • Ogunyemi, Chickwenye Okonjo. "The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English." Signs, Volume 11, Issue 1 (1985), pp. 63-80.
  • Petersen, Kirsten Holst, ed. Criticism and Ideology: Second African Writers' Conference (1988).
  • Popkin, Michael, ed. Modern Black Writers, (Ungar, 1978).
  • Smith, Chistopher. "Buchi Emecheta" in C. Brian Cox, ed. African Writers, Vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997).
  • Taiwo, Oladele. Female Novelists of Modern Africa. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984.)
  • Umeh, Marie. African Women in Transition in the Novels of Buchi Emecheta, Presence Africane, Vol. 116 (1980), pp. 190-201.

External links.

  • Buchi Emecheta page at Ask.com
  • Buchi Emecheta bio at the BBC Worldwide
  • Buchi Emecheta page at Emory University
  • Buchi Emecheta page at the National University of Singapore
  • Buchi Emecheta page at the University of Florida
  • Buchi Emecheta page at the Literary Encyclopedia
  • ‘Just’ an Igbo Woman, Interviewed by Julie Holmes in The Voice, July 9, 1996.
  • The Joys of Motherhood chapter outline at Washington State University
  • Reading Buchi Emecheta: Contests for Women's Experience in Women's Studies by Donna Haraway
  • The Roland collection of Films & video on Art: Writers Talk: ideas of our time with Buchi Emecheta speaks with Susheila Nasta (free clip)

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