Buchi Emecheta (born 21 July 1944, in Lagos) is a Nigerian novelist who has published over 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Her themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education have won her considerable critical acclaim and honours, including an Order of the British Empire in 2005. 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.”
(Florence Onye) Buchi Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in Lagos to Igbo parents. Both parents are from ibusa delta state Nigeria Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta and Jeremy Nwabudinke. Her father was a railway worker in the 1940s. Due to the gender bias of the time,the young Buchi Emecheta 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, she spent her early childhood at an all-girl’s missionary school. Her father died when she was nine years old. A year later, Emecheta received a full scholarship to the Methodist Girls School, where she remained until the age of sixteen when she married Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was eleven years old.
Onwordi immediately moved to London to attend university and Emecheta joined him in 1962. She gave birth to five children in six years. It was an unhappy and sometimes violent marriage (as chronicled in her autobiographical writings such as Second-Class Citizen). 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 22, Emecheta left her husband. While working to support her five children alone, she earned a BSc degree in Sociology at the University of London.
She began writing about her experiences of Black British life in a regular column in the New Statesman, and a collection of these pieces became her first published book in 1972, 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. Her second novel published two years later, Second-Class Citizen, also drew on Emecheta’s own experiences, and both books were eventually published in one volume as Adah’s Story.
From 1965 to 1969, Emecheta worked as a library officer for the British Museum in London. From 1969 to 1976 she was a youth worker and sociologist for the Inner London Education Authority, and from 1976 to 1978 she was a community worker.
Following her success as an author, Buchi Emecheta has travelled widely as a visiting professor and lecturer. From 1972 to 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 senior resident fellow and visiting professor of English, University of Calabar, Nigeria. In 1982 she lectured at Yale University, and the University of London, as well as holding a fellowship at the University of London in 1986.
From 1982 to 1983 Buchi Emecheta, together with her journalist son Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company.
B.Sc. (Honours), University of London, 1972.
New Statesman Jock Campbell Award for The Slave Girl, 1979.
British Home Secretary’s Advisory Council on Race, 1979.
Arts Council of Great Britain – 1982-3.
One of Granta’s “Best of the Young British Novelists”, 1983.
PhD, University of London, 1991.
Who’s Who in Anioma, 2011
Who’s Who in Ibusa, 2011
In the Ditch (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1972).
Second-Class Citizen (London: Allison & Busby, 1974).
The Bride Price (London: Allison & Busby, 1976).
The Slave Girl (London: Allison & Busby, 1977); winner of 1979 Jock Campbell Award.
The Joys of Motherhood (London: Allison & Busby, 1979; Heinemann, African Writers Series No. 65, 1980).
The Moonlight Bride (Oxford University Press, 1976).
Our Own Freedom (photographs by Maggie Murray; London: Sheba, 1981).
Destination Biafra (London: Allison & Busby, 1982).
Naira Power (London: Macmillan, 1982);Pacesetter Novels series.
Adah’s Story [In the Ditch/Second-Class Citizen] (London: Allison & Busby, 1983).
The Rape of Shavi (London: Ogwugwu Afor, 1984).
Double Yoke (New York: George Braziller, 1983).
A Kind of Marriage (London: Macmillan, 1986); Pacesetter Novels series.
Gwendolen (London: Collins, 1989). Published in the US as The Family.
Kehinde (Heinemann, African Writers Series, 1994).
The New Tribe (Heinemann, African Writers Series, 1999).
Head Above Water (London: Fontana, 1986).
Titch the Cat (London: Allison & Busby, 1979).
Nowhere to Play (London: Allison & Busby, 1980).
The Wrestling Match (Oxford University Press, 1980).
A Kind of Marriage, BBC television.
Family Bargain, BBC television, 1987.
The Black Scholar, November–December 1985, p. 51.
Criticism and Ideology, 1988.
Essence magazine, August 1990, p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, April 29, 1990.
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 1990, p. 73; reprinted 7 February 1994, p. 84.
World Literature Today, Autumn 1994, p. 867.
Text compiled and edited by Wole Adedoyin
Another Write-up By SABLE LitMag
Buchi Emecheta was the featured author on the cover of Sable LitMag’s official launch issue in 2005. The cover of SABLE LitMag has always championed activist writers, and as the most prolific writer of African descent in Britain, Buchi Emecheta was the perfect face for SABLE’s launch issue.
She also came to the launch event in North London at Manjaro’s, attending a specially organised gathering for her at the Humming Bird Restaurant in North London on the occasion of her receiving an OBE for her literary achievements in British Literature.
SABLE have had a long and warm relationship with Buchi Emecheta and this is now the official page created to highlight her work, books and forthcoming news.
Novelist Buchi Emecheta was born on July 21 1944 in Yaba near Lagos, Nigeria, to Jeremy Nwabudike and Alice Okwuekwu Emecheta. At a young age, Emecheta was orphaned and she spent her early childhood years being educated at a missionary school. In 1960, at the age of sixteen, Emecheta was married to Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was eleven. After their marriage, Sylvester and Buchi moved to London. Over the course of her six year marriage, Emecheta gave birth to five children. She has lived in London since 1960.
Emecheta’s works deal with the portrayal of the African woman and the main characters of her novels show what it means to be a woman and mother in Nigerian and British society. Many of her books are semi-autobiographical.
Book Award and Prizes
New Statesman – Jock Campbell Award for The Slave Girl (1979)
Arts Council of Great Britain Writer Award (1982-3)
Granta – “Best of the Young British Novelists” (1983)
OBE – Honoured by the Queen for services to Literature (2005)
In the Ditch (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1972)
Second-Class Citizen (London: Allison & Busby, 1974)
The Bride Price (London: Allison & Busby, 1976)
The Moonlight Bride (Oxford University Press, 1976)
The Slave Girl (London: Allison & Busby, 1977)
The Joys of Motherhood (London: Allison & Busby, 1979)
Titch the Cat (London: Allison & Busby, 1979) ; Children’s
Nowhere to Play (London: Allison & Busby, 1980) ; Children’s
The Wrestling Match (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) ; Children’s/Young Adults
Nowhere to Play (London: Allison & Busby, 1980) ; Children’s/Young Adults
Our Own Freedom (photographs by Maggie Murray; London: Sheba, 1981)
Destination Biafra (London: Allison & Busby, 1982)
Naira Power (London: Macmillan, 1982) ; Pacesetter Novels series
Adah’s Story [In the Ditch/Second-Class Citizen] (London: Allison & Busby, 1983)
The Rape of Shavi (London: Ogwugwu Afor, 1984)
Double Yoke (London: Ogwugwu Afor , 1982) (New York: George Braziller, 1983)
Head Above Water (London: Fontana, 1986) ; Autobiography
A Kind of Marriage (London: Macmillan, 1986) ; Pacesetter Novels series
Gwendolen (London: Collins, 1989)
Kehinde (Heinemann, African Writers Series, 1994)
The New Tribe (Heinemann, African Writers Series, 1999)
A Kind of Marriage, BBC television, 1976
Family Bargain, BBC television, 1987
Links on Buchi Emecheta and her work
1.Links to interviews and the work of Buchi Emecheta
2.Interview by Julie Holmes of The Voice: Emecheta talks about how her Igbo heritage has informed her writing, giving it an almost autobiographical quality.
3.A short outline of the themes in some of Emecheta’s major novels.
-A comprehensive collection of information and articles about Emecheta’s life, history, politics and issues in her novels.
4.A lengthy excerpt from Emecheta’s 1994 novel Kehinde.
5.A 2006 interview with Zhana, in which Emecheta discusses the personal difficulties and cultural set-backs she faced when she began writing.
-A detailed analysis of Emecheta’s novel The Slave Girl.
7.In this critical essay, Patricia McLean discusses the complexities of The Joys of Motherhood and why it cannot simply be classed as a ‘plain feminist message’.
8.A long bibliography of feminist criticism of Echemeta and other African writers.
9.A complete bibliography of Emecheta’s novels, including varying publications of a particular work.
10.An essay by Lena Andersson comparing depictions of Africa in Emecheta’s Destination Biafra with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness