Buchi Emecheta

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Buchi Emecheta
Born Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta
(1944-07-21) 21 July 1944 (age 72)
Lagos, Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian
Occupation Writer
Notable work Second-Class Citizen
The Bride Price
The Joys of Motherhood

Buchi Emecheta OBE (born 21 July 1944) is a Nigerian novelist, based in Britain since 1960,[1] who has also written plays and autobiography, as well as for children. She had published more than 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." She has been characterised as "the first successful black woman novelist living in Britain after 1948".[2]

Early life[edit]

Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in Lagos, Nigeria, to Igbo parents, Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta and Jeremy Nwabudinke, both parents from Ibusa, Delta State, Nigeria. 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 16 when, in 1960, she married Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was 11 years old.

Move to London[edit]

Onwordi immediately moved to London, UK, to attend university and Emecheta joined him. 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).[3] 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;[4][5] she has said that The Bride Price, eventually published in 1976, would have been her first book but she had to rewrite it after it was destroyed: "There were five years between the two versions."[6] 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 (Allison and Busby, 1974), also drew on Emecheta's own experiences, and both books were eventually published in one volume under the title Adah's Story (1983).


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,[7] and from 1976 to 1978 she was a community worker.

Following her success as an author, Emecheta 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 Emecheta, together with her journalist son Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company, publishing her own work under the imprint.

Among honours received during her literary career, Emecheta won the Jock Campbell Award from the New Statesman in 1979, and was on Granta magazine's 1983 list of "Best of the Young British Novelists". In September 2004, she appeared in the historic "A Great Day in London" photograph taken at the British Library, featuring 50 Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature, .[8][9] In 2005, she was made an OBE.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • BSc (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 bursary, 1982–83.
  • One of Granta′s "Best of the Young British Novelists", 1983.
  • PhD, University of London, 1991.
  • Order of the British Empire, 2005
  • Who's Who in Anioma, 2011
  • Who's Who in Ibusa, 2011




  • Head Above Water (London: Fontana, 1986).

Children’s/Young Adults[edit]

  • Titch the Cat, illustrated by Thomas Joseph (London: Allison & Busby, 1979).
  • Nowhere to Play, illustrated by Peter Archer (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.
  • "Feminism with a Small 'f'!" Criticism and Ideology: Second African Writer's Conference, Stockholm 1988, edited by Kirsten H. Petersen, pp. 173–181. Uppsala: Scandinanvian Institute of African Studies, 1988.
  • Essence magazine, August 1990, p. 50.
  • New York Times Book Review, 29 April 1990.
  • Publishers Weekly, 16 February 1990, p. 73; reprinted 7 February 1994, p. 84.
  • World Literature Today, Autumn 1994, p. 867.

See also[edit]


  • Anthony, Barthelemy, "Western Time, African Lives: Time in the Novels of Buchi Emecheta", Callaloo, Vol. 12, Issue 3 (1989), pp. 559–74.
  • Bruner, Charlotte, and David Bruner. "Buchi Emecheta and Maryse Condé: 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).
  • Fishburn, Katherine, Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations, Contributions to the Study of World Literature, Number 61 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995).
  • Jahn, Janheinz, Who's Who in African Literature (Eerdman, 1972), pp. 209–11.
  • 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.
  • Oriaku, Remy. “Buchi Emecheta: If Not a Feminist, Then What?”, Aduke Adebayo (ed.), Feminism and African Women’s Creative Writings: Theory, Practice and Criticism (Ibadan: AMD Publishers, 1996), pp. 72 – 90.
  • 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", Présence Africaine, Vol. 116 (1980), pp. 190–201.


  1. ^ "Buchi Emecheta", Literature, British Council.
  2. ^ Ashley Dawson, "Beyond Imperial Feminism: Buchi Emecheta's London Novels and Black British Women's Emancipation", in Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain, University of Michigan Press, 2007, p. 117.
  3. ^ "Emecheta, Buchi", Biography, Postcolonial Studies @ Emory.
  4. ^ Gale Contemporary Black Biography.
  5. ^ "Buchi Emecheta", ENotes.
  6. ^ Feroza F. Jussawalla, Reed Way Dasenbrock, "Buchi Emecheta", Interviews with Writers of the Post-colonial World, University Press of Mississippi, 1992, p. 84.
  7. ^ Margaret Busby, "Buchi Emecheta", Daughters of Africa, 1992, p. 656.
  8. ^ Andrea Levy, "Made in Britain. To celebrate the impact of their different perspectives, 50 writers of Caribbean, Asian and African descent gathered to be photographed. Andrea Levy reports on a great day for literature", The Guardian, 18 September 2004.
  9. ^ Kevin Le Gendre, "Books: A great day for a family get together Who are the movers and shakers in black British writing? And can they all fit on one staircase?", The Independent on Sunday, 17 October 2004.

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