Shelves: 2-star , reviewed , reality-check , 1-read-on-hand , person-of-everything , shorty-short , wm , person-of-reality , r-goodreads , antidote-think-twice-read I picked up a copy of this book because of my regularly refreshed familiarity with the contents of Great Books By Women. For whatever reason, I was not inspired, and whether this is due to my own cynicism or understanding that such enthusiasm does little good in the long run remains to be seen. The best part of this work was when Adah was a gangling child wrangling with life and death and education until she had the means the vision of her future to seeming fruition. Once her penultimate goal of expatriation was achieved, all of that went and stayed downhill for pretty much the rest of the narrative. Longer narratives can sometimes both benefit and suffer from a reader waiting for it to be over, but a novella is best as a brief yet pithy punctuation mark, and this dragged and then barely gave any sense of follow through.

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Other Nigerian women, those who have relocated to England, for example, often suffer the emotional effects of being suddenly immersed into an alien country. Their lives are further complicated by the power that Nigerian men, following traditional beliefs, still have over them.

Emecheta, who struggled in Nigeria to get an education and who suffered abuse in England by her Nigerian husband, reproduces these and other experiences in fictionalized form. At the end of her stay at the school she marries Francis, but she does so simply to acquire a stable and socially acceptable home.

Adah and Francis, who is studying to become an accountant, then move to London. A defeatist Francis tells Adah that the color of her skin makes her a second-class citizen, her educational achievements notwithstanding. Adah undergoes other trials. Francis, unable to cope with British life, not only stops studying but is repeatedly unfaithful while demanding submission and sex from Adah.

In response, Adah experiments unsuccessfully with birth control in an attempt to avoid the financial catastrophe of yet another pregnancy. Later in the novel, Adah is introduced to black writers, including James Baldwin, by a fellow worker, and her own ambition to write begins to form. Second-Class Citizen is unpretentiously written and compelling.

It is an autobiographical story of an intelligent and resilient woman who is determined not to let sexism and racism limit her life or her talents. Although the book has been criticized for its portrayal of Nigerian society and Nigerian men, it is free of apparent bitterness and explicit special pleading. Still, Second-Class Citizen, the work of a young writer, is lumpily episodic in structure, and its ending is disconcertingly abrupt.

He permits Aku-nna to continue her education because it will increase her bride price, which will now go to him, but he has no interest in her personal wishes. Meanwhile, Akunna and Chike, her schoolmaster, fall in love, but Chike, the descendant of slaves, is subordinated and limited by traditional views as well.

When Aku-nna can no longer hide that she is menstruating, and thus marriageable, Okonkwo, in a display of male power, tells her that she must let her friendship with Chike die. Aku-nna is kidnapped for marriage by Okoboshi, a classmate, in a tradition that is tolerated by Igbo society, but she is rejected by him when she falsely claims that she is not a virgin.

She is able to escape with Chike, marries him, but dies giving birth to a daughter. There is, furthermore, the introduction of a new theme, the destructive effects of the caste system within African society: Chike, too, is marginalized.

Despised by Okoboshi and his relatives when they think she has lost her virginity, Aku-nna reflects that she will be killed by Okonkwo if she runs away from him, and that she will die of shame and rejection if she stays. The point of these psychological pressures is to bring about the very death that is traditionally predicted for those who break custom and taboo.

Ironically, even the rebel against traditional customs and constraints reinforces these traditions by the manner of her death. Nnu Ego submits to marrying a man she has never met; indeed, when she does meet him, she finds in him neither esteem nor attractiveness.

Nnaife is conscripted into the British army for action in World War II, and his two wives are left to their own resources.

Adaku becomes a prostitute and does well financially; Nnu Ego remains respectable and does not. When Nnaife returns, he acquires a third wife, sixteen-year-old Okpo. Nnaife, after serving a brief prison sentence for attacking a man of a different tribe who wanted to marry one of his daughters, returns to Ibuza, with the young Okpo.

Nnu Ego, disowned, dies in Ibuza obscurely, and a shrine is built for her so any infertile granddaughters can pray to her. Amesh of interconnected themes is developed in The Joys of Motherhood. At one stage, Nnu Ego thinks that if she were in Ibuza she would have her own hut and be given respect; in colonized Lagos, she has the worst of both worlds—polygamy and exploitation. She has been given to a man who is subservient before his English masters, as if he were a woman, but who still tries to exact complete obedience in the home, as if he were part of an organic social system of give and take that justified such demands.

Her boys, to whom she has sacrificed everything, end up living in the New World, the epitome of modernity, and do not correspond with their mother. Nnu Ego has obeyed all the old rules but is still taken advantage of, and abandoned in old age. Bibliography Booker, M. Portsmouth, N. Cox, C. Brian, ed. African Writers. Derrickson, Teresa.

Fishburn, Katherine. Westport, Conn. Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo. Umeh, Marie, ed. Emerging Perspectives on Buchi Emecheta. Trenton, N. Uwakweh, Pauline Ada.

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Analysis of Buchi Emecheta’s Novels

Although life initially seems rosy for Adah, things turn sour when it becomes clear that Francis is physically and emotionally abusive. When I was in high school I came across this book by chance; it was in a box full of books the teachers said we could take for free. The main reason I picked the book was because I noticed that the writer was Nigerian and of Igbo descent. Later on, I gave a presentation on it because there were no books by a black woman on our English Literature syllabus. After the presentation I asked if the book could be added and although the teacher was encouraging, my classmates were not.


Second Class Citizen



Buchi Emecheta


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