Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Joys of Motherhood - Buchi Emecheta

I can't even remember what lead me to this book, but I am grateful for whatever it was because this is now one of my favourite books. This beautiful little book, first published in London in 1979 has not only whet my appetite, but completely drenched my appetite for books written by and about Africans.

As a woman of African descent, as a mother, and as a person who has particular views on motherhood, I was intrigued by the title of this book.  I was half expecting to read a story about the joys of motherhood in Africa: a story about women happily telling stories to their children by moonlight and recounting the stories of their own childhood etc. I was kind of expecting an education on the simple Nigerian life that I imagine that I missed out on as as result of growing up in the UK; a Nigeria where all the children in the village know each other and grow up together. I was expecting a story about how Nigerian mothers form a community to support each other in raising their children etc... I guess I had a somewhat romantic view of what I was about to read. However the irony of the title really sets you up for quite a surprise.

Aside from the main theme of the book - (African) motherhood - this book really helped me to learn more about every day life for Nigerians in colonial Nigeria, about Igbo culture and tradition, the relationship between the various Nigerian tribes (specifically Yoruba and Igbo) and the role of colonised Africans in the WW2.

It helped me to understand the contrast between traditional life in the village compared to life in Lagos and the difficulties faced by those who chose to/were forced to leave village life and embrace life in the city.  It also helped me to understand the daily life of those Nigerians living in poverty, and struggling on a daily basis to get by and provide the basics for their children - this made me even more grateful for my life and for what (although not much) I have.

This book left a huge impact on me. I read it three weeks ago now, and so although the strong message it sends still lingers in my mind and has to some degree influenced the way I see the world and my role as a mother, the initial sadness that I felt when I first finished reading it has waned a bit, and so perhaps this post will not be as raw and true to my feelings as when I first finished reading the book.

For a Wikipedia synopsis of this book click here. I also really enjoyed reading the countless reviews of this book on Goodreads (here).

I am so grateful to have been introduced to Buchi's writing. I really feel like she is somebody that I would love to have met and listened to in person. Her simple but rich writing style, and ability to really transport me to the time and place in which she is writing about suggests to me that should would be a wonderful person to speak to and learn from. Sadly Buchi passed away in 2017, however her life and legacy remain in the amazing stories that she shares in her books - some of which are about her personal experiences. You can find out more about Buchi here. As a result of this book I have now purchased more of her writing and am super excited to digest every single one. I hope this is not a flippant statement, but one could suggest that she is the Chimamanda of her time, or should I say that Chimamanda is the Buchi of our times. Either way, I love this book and have high hopes for her other work.

If you do read The Joys of Motherhood, leave a comment and tell me what you loved... or not.... about it.



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