Buchi Emecheta

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Buchi Emecheta
Born Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta
21 July 1944
Lagos, Nigeria
Died 25 January 2017(2017-01-25) (aged 72)
Nationality Nigerian
Occupation Writer
Notable work Second-Class Citizen
The Bride Price
The Joys of Motherhood

Florence Onyebuchi "Buchi" Emecheta OBE (21 July 1944 – 25 January 2017) was a Nigerian-born British novelist, based in the UK from 1962,[1] who also wrote plays and autobiography, as well as work 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).

Her themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education gained recognition from critics and honours. 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 and education[edit]

Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in Lagos, Nigeria, to Igbo parents,[3][4] Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta and Jeremy Nwabudinke.[5][6] Her father was a railway worker and molder.[5] 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.[7] 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,[4][6] a student to whom she had been engaged since she was 11 years old.[8][9]

Onwordi immediately moved to London to attend university and Emecheta joined him there with their first two children in 1962.[1] She gave birth to five children in six years.[9] It was an unhappy and sometimes violent marriage (as chronicled in her autobiographical writings such as Second-Class Citizen).[10] 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;[11] 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."[12] At the age of 22, Emecheta left her husband.[13] While working to support her five children alone, she earned a BSc (Hons) degree in Sociology in 1972 from the University of London.[4][13][5] Later she gained her PhD from the university in 1991.[14]


She began writing about her experiences of Black British life in a regular column in the New Statesman,[13] and a collection of these pieces became her first published book in 1972, In the Ditch.[13][4] The semi-autobiographical novel[3] 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.[4] Her second novel published two years later, Second-Class Citizen (Allison and Busby, 1974),[15] also drew on Emecheta's own experiences, and both books were eventually published in one volume under the title Adah's Story (Allison and Busby, 1983).[16]

From 1965 to 1969, Emecheta worked as a library officer for the British Museum in London.[5] From 1969 to 1976 she was a youth worker and sociologist for the Inner London Education Authority,[5][17] and from 1976 to 1978 she worked as a community worker in Camden, North London.[3][5]

Following her success as an author, Emecheta travelled widely as a visiting professor and lecturer. 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.[5][18] From 1980 to 1981, she was senior resident fellow and visiting professor of English, University of Calabar, Nigeria.[6] From 1982 to 1983 Emecheta, together with her son Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company, publishing her own work under the imprint.[13] Emecheta received an Arts Council of Great Britain bursary, 1982–83,[3][6] and was one of Granta′s "Best of the Young British Novelists" in 1983.[13] In 1982 she lectured at Yale University, and the University of London,[6] She became a Fellow at the University of London in 1986.[19]

Over the years she worked with many cultural and literary organizations, including the Africa Centre, London, and with the Caine Prize for African Writing as a member of the Advisory Council.[20]

Buchi Emecheta suffered a stroke in 2010,[21][13] and she died in London on 25 January 2017, aged 72.[22][13][15]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Among honours received during her literary career, Emecheta won the Jock Campbell Award from the New Statesman for The Slave Girl (1978),[3][23] and was on Granta magazine's 1983 list of "Best of Young British Novelists".[23][13] She was a member of the British Home Secretary's Advisory Council on Race in 1979.[6]

In September 2004, she appeared in the "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.[24][25] In 2005, she was made an OBE for services to literature.[13]

She received an Honorary doctorate of literature from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1992.[26]



  • In the Ditch (1972)[3]
  • Second-Class Citizen (1974)[3]
  • The Bride Price (1976)[3][6]
  • The Slave Girl (1977); winner of 1978 Jock Campbell Award[3]
  • The Joys of Motherhood (1979)[3]
  • The Moonlight Bride (1981)[6]
  • Our Own Freedom (photographs by Maggie Murray) (1981)[27]
  • Destination Biafra (1982)[3]
  • Naira Power (1982)[6]
  • Adah's Story [In the Ditch/Second-Class Citizen] (London: Allison & Busby, 1983).
  • The Rape of Shavi (1983)[3]
  • Double Yoke (1982)[3][4]
  • A Kind of Marriage (London: Macmillan, 1986); Pacesetter Novels series.
  • Gwendolen (1989) Published in the US as The Family[28]
  • Kehinde (1994)[3]
  • The New Tribe (2000)[3]


  • Head Above Water (1984)[6]

Children’s/Young Adults[edit]

  • Titch the Cat (1979)[6][23]
  • Nowhere to Play (1980)[3][23]
  • The Wrestling Match (1981)[6]


  • Ju Ju Landlord (1975)[29]
  • A Kind of Marriage, BBC television, 1976.[3][30]
  • Family Bargain, BBC television, 1987.[31]


  • 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.


  1. ^ a b Margaret Busby, "Buchi Emecheta obituary", The Guardian, 3 February 2017.
  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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ray, Ed. Mohit K., ed. (2007). The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 164. ISBN 9788126908325. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Ross, Robert L., ed. (1999). Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction: An Anthology. Psychology Press. p. 319. ISBN 9780815314318. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Olendorf, Donna, ed. (1991). Something about the Author (illustrated ed.). Gale Research International, Limited. p. 59. ISBN 9780810322769. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sleeman, Elizabeth (2001). The International Who's Who of Women 2002 (revised ed.). Psychology Press. p. 161. ISBN 9781857431223. 
  7. ^ A Study Guide for Buchi Emecheta's "The Joys of Motherhood". Gale Cengage Learning. 2016. ISBN 9781410350268. 
  8. ^ "Buchi Emecheta". The Telegraph. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  9. ^ a b A Study Guide for Buchi Emecheta's "The Bride Price". Gale, Cengage Learning. 2016. ISBN 9781410342034. 
  10. ^ "Emecheta, Buchi", Biography, Postcolonial Studies @ Emory.
  11. ^ "Buchi Emecheta Essay - Emecheta, Buchi (Contemporary Literary Criticism) - eNotes.com". 
  12. ^ Feroza F. Jussawalla, Reed Way Dasenbrock, "Buchi Emecheta", Interviews with Writers of the Post-colonial World, University Press of Mississippi, 1992, p. 84.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Buchi Emecheta, pioneering Nigerian novelist, dies aged 72". The Guardian. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  14. ^ Contemporary Authors. Gale. 2004. p. 115. ISBN 9780787667184. 
  15. ^ a b "Buchi Emecheta: Nigerian author who championed girls dies aged 72". BBC. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  16. ^ British Book News. National Book League. 1986. 
  17. ^ Margaret Busby, "Buchi Emecheta", Daughters of Africa, 1992, p. 656.
  18. ^ Society and Solitude (2 ed.). University Press of America. 1997. p. 241. ISBN 9780761801290. 
  19. ^ International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004 (revised ed.). Psychology Press. 2003. p. 162. ISBN 9781857431797. 
  20. ^ The Council of the Caine Prize for African Writing "Tribute to Buchi Emecheta (1944 - 2017)", Caine Prize blog, 1 February 2017.
  21. ^ Danuta Kean, "Buchi Emecheta, pioneering Nigerian novelist, dies aged 72", The Guardian, 2 January 2017,
  22. ^ Femi Adesanya, "Nigerian Literary Icon, Buchi Emecheta Has Died", Information Nigeria, 25 January 2017.
  23. ^ a b c d "Buchi Emecheta 1944–", Concise Major 21st Century Writers , enclyclopedia.com.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Siga Fatima Jagne and Pushpa Naidu Parekh (eds), Buchi Emecheta biography, Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Routledge, 1998, p. 149.
  27. ^ Umeh, Marie, ed. (1996). Emerging perspectives on Buchi Emecheta (illustrated ed.). Africa World Press. p. xxiv. ISBN 9780865434554. 
  28. ^ Sougou, Omar (2002). Writing Across Cultures: Gender Politics and Difference in the Fiction of Buchi Emecheta. Rodopi. p. 198. ISBN 9789042012981. 
  29. ^ Jackson, Tommie Lee (2001). An Invincible Summer: Female Diasporean Authors. Africa World Press. p. 101. ISBN 9780865438231. 
  30. ^ Sarita Malik, "Black TV Writers", BFI ScreenOnline.
  31. ^ Lindfors, Bernth; Sander, Reinhard (1992). Twentieth-century Caribbean and Black African writers (illustrated ed.). Gale Research Inc. p. 159. 

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