Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood as an African Feminist Text

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Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood as an African Feminist Text Upon my first reading of Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood, I immediately rejoiced--in this novel, I had finally encountered an account of a female protagonist in colonial and postcolonial African life. In my hands rested a work that gave names and voices to the silent, forgotten mothers and co-wives of novels by male African writers such as Chinua Achebe. Emecheta, I felt, provided a much-needed glimpse into the world of the African woman, a world harsher than that of the African male because woman is doubly marginalized. As a female in Africa, the opposite of male, woman suffers sexual oppression; as an African, the opposite of white in an ever-colonized nation, the African woman also suffers racial oppression. Nnu Ego, Emecheta's protagonist, became at once for me the poster female of Africa, a representative of all subjugated African women, and her story alerted me to all the wrongs committed against African women, wrongs that could only be righted through feminist discourse. As with many surface readings I have performed as a student of literature, however, my perspective on The Joys of Motherhood began to evolve. First, I realized and accepted Nnu Ego's failure to react against oppressive forces in order to bring about change for herself and the daughters of Africa; I consoled myself, reasoning that the novel still deserves the feminist label because it calls attention to the plight of the African woman and because its author and protagonist are female. Rereading the novel, however, also triggered the silencing of my initial response. I focused on such passages as the dying wish of Ona, Nnu Ego's mother, who implored Agbadi, Nnu Ego's father, ... ... middle of paper ... ...econd African Writers Conference, Stockholm, 1986. Ed. Kirsten Holst Petersen. Upsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1998. 173-202. ---. The Joys of Motherhood. New York: George Braziller, 1979. Nnoromele, Salome C. "Representing the African Woman: Subjectivity and Self in The Joys of Motherhood." Critique 43.2 (2002): 178-190. Ogundipe-Leslie, Molora. "The Female Writer and Her Commitment." Women in African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Durosimi Jones. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987. 5-14. Okeke, Phil E. "Reconfiguring Tradition: Women's Rights and Social Status in Contemporary Nigeria." Africa Today 47.1 (2000): 49-63. Schipper, Mineke. "Mother Africa on a Pedestal: The Male Heritage in African Literature and Criticism." Women in African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Durosimi Jones. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987. 35-53.
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