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The Joys of Motherhood was written by Buchi Emecheta, a Nigerian-born British author, and published by Allison & Busby in 1979. Emecheta has written and published over twenty works, from novels to plays, each of which delve into the complexities of what it means to be a woman and a mother in societies where the morals and traditions are constantly changing. The protagonist, Nnu Ego, has bad fortune with childbearing, and through her life centered on her children, she gains her community’s respect.
As European governments take control of African nations and annex them to turn them into a source of raw materials and labor, the newly colonized nations experience conflict and change in their traditions and tribal values. As the readers follow Ego’s journey, Emecheta forces all to see the conflicts that result from adopting European ideals and traditions and instinctively following age old tradition. The influence of the colonialists erodes the community that the Ibo once held.
Emecheta also criticizes Ibos who use male privilege to their advantage, oppressing women, wives and daughters. Though women can be mothers, bearing children and raising them, the “joys of motherhood” are also painful and anxiety-inducing.
The Joys of Motherhood is one of Emecheta’s most pivotal and well known works, giving criticism on colonialism, tradition, and women’s roles and how they affect one woman, Nnu Ego, and her family.
Time to Start Writing About Ourselves
In an interview with Adeola James, Buchi Emecheta states that African writers need to diversify. "Everything coming out of Africa, in literature, is still concerned with colonialism, what the Englishman has done to us. We forget that some of us have been independent for more than two decades. It is about time we started writing about ourselves now" (James).
In Her Own Voice: Buchi Emecheta's Opinion on Various Issues Regarding Her Writing and Her Culture
The following are several comments taken from an interview by Adeola James with Buchi Emecheta. Her comments may help us to better understand the conflicts faced by African emigrants as they attempt to preserve their cultural heritage.
Although Emecheta left Nigeria and has been living in England for most of her adult life, she still feels a deep emotional attachment towards Nigeria. She comments on the frustrations she feels when she visits her homeland, however, especially with the women. She feels that Nigerian (and African women in general) need to band together to support each other instead of "bitching about each other" (James 36).
The forthrightness that Emecheta is well-know for often gets her in trouble in Nigeria. She learned to speak her mind through the influence of her British culture, and this goes against her native culture. "In Nigeria women are riddled with hypocrisy, you learn to say what you don't feel. You learn to laugh or not to laugh too loudly" (James 38).
Emecheta knows that her Africanness is becoming diluted. One of her publishers has even stopped putting her books in the African section because they feel that she has lost her African perspective and voice.
Emecheta feels that Africa needs to do more to support African writers. She says that Africans would rather read cheap American novels than novels by African writers. Because of this, African writers end up moving to Europe out of necessity because Europe will support them by accepting their books.
When writing about women, Emecheta says she tries ask the following: "Why are women as they are? Why are they so pathetic? When you hear about traditional women who were very strong, you wonder, why are we today so pathetic, so hypocritical? (James 42).
Recurring Themes in Stories about Colonization
The following theme pages may further develop your understanding of post colonial literature as it relates to Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood.
The question of assimilation is omnipresent in post colonial literature. How has being colonized affected the colonized? The colonizer? When is someone "assimilated" into a new culture? How do they influence the culture they are assimilated into?
The audience an author has in mind for a written work inevitably influences the way in which the author writes it. Here we will start to look at how authors' intentions can be discussed in relation to the audience they address.
Books fit into the evolution and progression of a preexisting body of literature. Where do they fit? How have they been influenced by previous literature? How do they influence literature to come?
Many authors utilize written material to influence social and political currents. Here we will begin to look at different means of social change authors write about, and how they are differently portrayed.
Literary Style or Historical Fact
Here we will begin to examine how authors--James, Equiano, and Zinn in particular--combine techniques of historical documentation with literary styles, and the effect this has on the interpretation and impacts of their works.