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The Joys of Motherhood Paperback – May 17, 1979
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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."
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a compelling story of the changing times and the joys and sorrow of motherhood. I love this book! I highly recommend this work!Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was a very simple but powerful read. The title is somewhat of a misnomer - motherhood was presented as more of a responsibility, a burden, a traditional position dictated but... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Phyllis E. Clay
In my post about Efuru, I already spoke about why my favorite novelists are African women. "The Joys of Motherhood" engages us in a serious discussion about womanhood that... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Mandisa
The Joys of Motherhood in many ways is a cautionary tale for not only African women but all women. It beautifully written and conveys the experiences of African women so clearly... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
Just simply stunning - the story, the author and the writing. Tackles issues of motherhood, being a woman, colonialism, the eldest son and changing cultures.Published 24 months ago by Afro Book Club