Buchi Emecheta was a prolific writer and in a career spanning 30 years published 16 novels, three children’s stories, numerous articles and television plays. She was also an academic, well known on the lecture circuits of Europe and America for her strong and sometimes idiosyncratic views on feminism and womanhood.
The Nigerian novelist, Buchi Emecheta was born in Lagos in 1944. She was an orphan by the age of 11, and if not for the scholarship she won to a Methodist boarding school might never have escaped her background of poverty and deprivation. At 16, she was married with her first child and in 1960, while carrying her second, her husband left for the UK to find work. Buchi followed a year later and the young family set up home in a run down district of North London. The marriage failed as a result of domestic violence and the stresses of living in an unwelcoming environment. By age 22, Buchi was a single mother raising five small children in slum dwellings in a foreign land.
How she held a full time job, studied in the evenings for a Sociology degree and transformed herself into a novelist, formed the subject of her first two published novels – In the Ditch (1972) and Second Class Citizen (1974), both gruelling indictments of the racism and sexism endemic in British culture at that time. Most of Buchi Emecheta’s novels are semi autobiographical. Even in her African tales – The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979), one hears echoes not just of her remembered life as a child in Lagos and Ibusa, but of her parent’s and grandparent’s lives as passed down to her in the form of stories.
In 1982, she wrote Destination Biafra, the first female account of the Nigerian civil war, though in later years she eschewed memory and in works like Gwendolen (1989), Kehinde (1994) and The New Tribe (2000), began to explore the experience of life within the African diaspora and the problematic nature of returning home.
Buchi Emecheta died in London in January 2017 at the age of 72.
– Sylvester Onwordi, 2017