Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta is the latest author to be celebrated as part of a Google Doodle on what would have been the 75th Birthday on 21st July 2019. Buchi is a celebrated writer in both the UK and Nigeria who worked towards the liberation of women through her writing about her life as an immigrant single mother living in London.
She faced several struggles while trying to raise her five children, while working, getting an education and writing novels based around her life in Britain. Over time she became a well-respected writer and an influential figure, and she was recognised as being among the top 100 women who changed the world by BBC History Magazine in 2018.
So who is Buchi and where did she grow up? What did she do? What sacrifices did she make? When and what did she write? Why is she celebrated as a Google Doodle? How is she remembered?
Let’s take a look at all you need to know about the pioneering writer who said her books were about survival, like her life was.
Who is Buchi Emecheta?
Buchi was born on July 21 in 1944, in the Lagos suburb of Yaba, to Ibo parents.
She grew up listening to her grandmothers oral tales and went on to become a writer once she had grown up.
She moved to Britain in 1960, where she worked as a librarian and became a student at London University in 1970, reading Sociology. She worked as a community worker in Camden, North London, between 1976 and 1978.
She married at 16 and emigrated to London in 1962 with her new husband. They went on to have five children together.
What did Buchi do?
She undertook a sociology degree, worked at a library and wrote novels as she brought up her children.
During her life she wrote 16 novels including In The Ditch, Second-Class Citizen, The Joys of Motherhood and Slave Girl, as well as her 1986 autobiography, Head Above Water.
During the 1970s and ’80s she worked as a lecturer and founded the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company with her son.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – more celebrated than any previous African woman writer – acknowledged Emecheta influence when she said: “I read and admired all her books. Destination Biafra was very important for my research when I was writing Half of a Yellow Sun. The book I adored was The Joys of Motherhood, for its sparkling intelligence and a certain kind of honest, lived, intimate insight into working-class colonial Nigeria.”
Ama Ata Aidoo, internationally acclaimed African author, writing since the 1960s, and who taught The Joys of Motherhood in a course on African women’s literature, said: “Buchi Emecheta was expert at cutting through mush. So at writers’ conferences and other public meetings, while we fumbled for responses to the perennially frustrating question, ‘Which of your books is your favourite?’, Buchi would be swift with: ‘My books are like my children. I don’t have favourites.’”
While committed to the liberation of women, she did not label herself a feminist, claiming: “Apart from telling stories, I don’t have a particular mission. I like to tell the world our part of the story while using the voices of women.” Alastair Niven, former director of the Africa Centre, London, recalled the influential storytelling sessions she held there: “Without seeking to be so, she became an outstanding role model for how black women from another country could achieve a respected place in British society through sheer determination and ability.” In the opinion of James Currey, editorial director of Heinemann’s African Writers Series who later issued Emecheta’s work, “She, Flora Nwapa and Bessie Head gave women from Africa the idea that they might get published.”
Life of Survival and Hard Work
Through her hard work, Buchi was able to depict the domestic abuse she faced and her story of survival and success. This has made her an inspiration to black women in the UK and around the globe. I truly admired her strength, determination, outlook on life and her achievements. Her outspoken bravery is something which should be remembered, and something I will never forget.
She once said: “Just keep trying and trying. If you have the determination and commitment, you will succeed.”
Bunchi died on January 25 2017.
What Did She Write (and When)