Buchi Emecheta’s Death: Nigeria Mourns the Exit of a Literary Icon


One of Africa’s renowned writers, Buchi Emecheta passed on yesterday, Wednesday Jan 25th in London at the age of 72. The Nigerian author reportedly passed on in her sleep.

Her death has left Nigeria at a loss of yet another literary icon as we commiserate with the family. The award-winning Nigerian Writer was respected for her creativity and Afrocentric novels.

Buchi published over 20 books, including plays and an autobiography. Buchi will be remembered for classics such as the Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979).

Like Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta is another Nigerian writer who was described as a core feminist. Buchi’s works focus largely on child slavery, motherhood, female independence through education, and are also based on her own experiences as both a single parent and a black woman living in Britain.

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.”

Buchi Emecheta quotes

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Born on July 21, in Lagos to Igbo parents, Buchi Emecheta got married at age of 16 and immigrated with her husband to London in 1962.

It was an unhappy and sometimes violent marriage (as chronicled in her autobiographical writings such as SecondClass Citizen), and within a period of six years, she gave birth to her first five children. 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, Buchi 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 – the Ditch in 1972.

She views her writing as the “release for all my anger, all my bitterness, my disappointments, my questions and my joy.” Her advice to black women – “Black women all over the world should re-unite and re-examine the way history has portrayed us.”

Her works have earned her a number of honours and awards, which include;

  • An Order of the British Empire (2005)
  • New Statesman Jock Campbell Award for The Slave Girl (1979)
  • Best Black British Writer (1978)
  • One of Granta′s Best of the Young British Novelists (1983).

Following her success as an author, She traveled 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.

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. In 2005, she was made an OBE.

Buchi Emecheta books

Briefly, here is a synopsis into some of the celebrated novelist’s randomly selected works;

The Bride Price (1976): The fictional story weaves in the theme of male dominance and women’s compliance to men, as it focuses on the problems of women in post-colonial Nigeria.

The Joys of Motherhood (1979): The theme of the novel dwells on women and feminity. It also provides excellent insight to the effects of colonialism on native Nigerians.

Adah’s Story (1983): Adah’s Story includes Buchi Emecheta’s first two books – In the Ditch (1972) and Second-Class Citizen (1974). The book introduces Emecheta’s three major themes: the quests for equal treatment, self-confidence, and dignity as a woman.

Head Above Water (1986) : This is Buchi Emecheta’s autobiography that spans the transition from a tribal childhood in the African bush to life in North London as an internationally acclaimed writer.

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Gwendolen (1989): Gwendolen is Emecheta’s 10th novel which also addresses the issues of immigrant life in Great Britain.