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The Joys of Motherhood Paperback – May 17, 1979

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Editorial Reviews


A rich, multilayered work of fiction, full of drama and written with deceptive simplicity. -- Essence

About the Author

Born of Ibo parents in Nigeria, Buchi Emecheta is widely known for her multilayered stories of black women struggling to maintain their identity and construct viable lives for themselves and their families. She writes, according to The New York Times, with "subtlety, power, and abundant compassion." Her numerous novels include The Slave Girl, The Family, Bride Price, and The Joys of Motherhood.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller; 1st edition (May 17, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807609501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807609507
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Hays on August 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Buchi Emecheta, writes with piercing teeth and gouging fingers: irony, sarcasm, and anger are her appendages: orphan, arranged marriage object, immigrant to England, five children by 22, marriage terminator, single mother acquiring degree in sociology, messaged writer.

The setting for "The Joys of Motherhood" is in Lagos, Nigeria, between the 1930's and the 1960's. Lagos, the capital of the British colony of Nigeria, is primarily Yoruba; the main characters are Igbo.

Change from chiefdoms to the city: "Men here [in Lagos] are too busy being white men's servants to be men. We women mind the home. Not our husbands. Their manhood has been taken away from them. The shame of it is that they don't know it. All they see is the money, shining white man's money"

Community versus individual: The scene is an attempted suicide in Lagos. "You are simply not allowed to commit suicide in peace, because everyone is responsible for the other person. Foreigners may call us a nation of busybodies, but to us, an individual's life belongs to the community not just to him or her. So a person has no right to take it while another member of the community looks on. He must interfere, he must stop it happening."

Religion: "Her new Christian religion taught her to bear her cross with fortitude. If hers was to support her family, she would do so, until her husband found a new job."

War: The context is the forced draft of Nigerians into the army during World War II: "For me to be married to a soldier, a plunderer and killer of children.... I don't know how I would feel if I was asked to kill people who had never offended me."

Men and Women: "God when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody's appendage?"

Motherhood: "When the children were good they belonged to the father; when they were bad, they belonged to the mother. Every woman knew this."
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have to argue with VICTRAV's telling of the book...
Nnu Ego was sent to marry a man she did not know yet - but this was after a failed marriage to a man she did know. Also, Nnu Ego knew her future husbands brother and family - just not him. Yes, Nnu Ego had some struggle in regards to having children but having children is what made her happy and further made her a woman. Her husband, Nnaife, did take another wife, his deceased brothers wife as Ibo custom deemed proper. Adaku - the second wife taken ultimately leaves Nnaife because she doesn't like him. Okpo, the third wife came into their lives when Nnu Ego was reaching her 40's - and instead of offering irrritance like Adaku, offered help to Nnu Ego. Wanting to leave Nnaife and Lagos are thoughts that cross Nnu Ego's mind throughout the entire book but its not until the encarciration of Nnaife that Nnu Ego returns to her home in Ibuza. Having no husband and all her children gone their own ways Nnu Ego's life seems a sad one but in the end, after she passes, her children pay omage to her with "the greatest funeral Ibuza had ever seen." (Emecheta p.224)
A definately important thing to remember when reading this book is not to read it from your culture's eyes but to try and understand another cultures ways.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eunice P. Ave on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a well-told story of a beloved girl child from a traditional Nigerian village family in the early to mid twentieth century who grows to womanhood. It chronicles the twists and turns her life takes when she is married and fails to conceive. She is judged to be the thing that is only spoken of in whispers -- barren. The protagonist, Nnu Ego, is first revealed as a simple woman who wants to fulfill the traditional role of wife and mother. Her first husband judges her unworthy in her barrenness and returns her to her family in disgrace. She is then married off to an older man who earns his living as a domestic worker for a white couple in the city. She is at least a wife, if not a mother. Lo and behold, she is not barren and conceives children with this man. She must and does find work as a petty trader to support her children, which is urgent because her husband's income is inadequate to feed his family. Nnu Ego must also do without the traditional supports for her position that could be found in village life. Like many third world women, she finds that she has all of the myriad responsibilities of wife and motherhood, with little of the rights and honors that would normally be bestowed on her as the chief or first wife. Her problems are manifold; she and her children almost die of starvation when her husband goes away to fight in the European war. He marries another wife on a seeming whim as is his right. They are all housed in one room in the servant's quarters. The second wife must also scrape to survive and she and Nnu Ego are ever locked in a battle of wills while at the same time trying to maintain their dignity and feed and educate their children even though they are illiterates themselves.Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "jadeyagain" on March 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
Joys of Motherhood was one of the books I read for my Post Colonial African lit class, and I have to say it was my favourite novel on the course. I could barely put this book down. Emecheta rights in an engaging style that gets the reader wrapped up in the lives of the characters. I found myself cheering on Adaku, hating Oshia and wanting Nnu Ego to break free from the patriarchal system.
This is not the kind of book you read to see how it ends since you know from the beginning it will end in sadness. You read this book only to know the characters and their plight. It even gives you a look at how _men_ are victims of the patriarchal system as well. I fully recommend Joys of Motherhood to anyone who enjoys fully engaging characters.
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