Second Class Citizen (book)

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Second Class Citizen
AuthorBuchi Emecheta
PublisherAllison & Busby
Publication date
Pages174 pp.
Preceded byIn the Ditch 
Followed byThe Bride Price 

Second Class Citizen is a 1974 novel by Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta, first published in London by Allison and Busby. It was subsequently published in the US by George Braziller in 1975. A poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children, the novel is often described as semi-autobiographical, with the journey from Nigeria to London following closely Emecheta’s own trajectory as an author.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

At the beginning of the novel, Adah is a child of Ibos from Ibuza, Nigeria, living in Lagos. She dreams as a young girl of moving to the United Kingdom. After her father dies, Adah is sent to live with her uncle's family.

She is able to stay in school in Nigeria and attains employment working for the British embassy as a library clerk. The compensation from this job is enough to make her a desirable bride to Francis (her now husband) and in-laws.

Francis travels to the United Kingdom for several years to pursue the study of law. Adah convinces her husband's family that she and the children also belong in the UK. Francis believes they are second-class citizens in the United Kingdom as they are not citizens of the country. Adah finds employment working for another library and pays for their expenses, while also providing primary care for their children.

Later, we see Francis become increasingly abusive and dismissive of Adah as she pursues becoming a writer.

Critical reception[edit]

Second Class Citizen is well regarded as a story of overcoming struggle and of contemporary African life.[2] On the novel's publication, Hermione Harris wrote in Race & Class: "Of the scores of books about race and black communities in Britain that have appeared during the 1960s and early 1970s, the great majority are written by white academic ultimately concerned with the relationship between white society and black 'immigrants'. Few accounts have emerged from those on the receiving end of British racism or liberalism of their own black experience. On the specific situation of black women there is almost nothing. Second Class Citizen ... is therefore something of a revelation."[3]


  1. ^ Umeh, Marie. "Buchi Emecheta". In Pushpa Naidu Parekh and Siga Fatima Jagne (eds), Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
  2. ^ Walker, Alice, "A Writer Because of, Not in Spite of, Her Children," in Ms. (© 1975 Ms. Magazine Corp.), Vol. IV, No. 7, January 1976, pp. 40, 106.
  3. ^ Harris, Hermione, "Book Reviews: Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta (London, Allison and Busby, 1974)", Race & Class (Institute of Race Relations), Vol. 16, issue 4, 1 April 1975, pp. 433–435. Via Sage Journals