About Joys of Motherhood
A feminist literary classic by one of Africa’s greatest women writers, re-issued with a new introduction by Stéphane Robolin.
First published in 1979, The Joys of Motherhood is the story of Nnu Ego, a Nigerian woman struggling in a patriarchal society. Unable to conceive in her first marriage, Nnu is banished to Lagos where she succeeds in becoming a mother. Then, against the backdrop of World War II, Nnu must fiercely protect herself and her children when she is abandoned by her husband and her people. Emecheta “writes with subtlety, power, and abundant compassion” (New York Times).
The Joys of Motherhood is a story set in Nigeria. It is during the traditional times and transition to colonialism between 1930 and 1940. It gives good insight to the kind of life that was in Nigeria during this period. It takes you deep into Igbo culture. The story centers on Nnu Ego. Nnu is the daughter of Chief Agbadi. The chief has a daughter (Nnu) with a mistress who is the love of his life, Ona. Chief Agbadi has several wives and here we see a polygamous set up, although it is clear that Ona who is Nnu’s mother is the love of his life.
The book shows you a contrast between old and new. Traditional life before colonialists came to Nigeria and life during the colonial period. This here is another book that I get to read about the effects of World War II in Nigeria.
Buchi Emecheta writes this story in an authentic way. Each page you read is a page turner and thought provocking. A glimpse of a woman, Nnu deep in the heart of traditional Nigeria. She is suddenly thrown into a modern city during the colonial period.
Nnu Ego comes out as a strong character. A feminist in the traditional and colonial period. We see her deal with traditional obligations on women as well as colonial obligations on women comprehensively.
Was the title an irony? For sure it was, as we see Nnu struggle through a lot. However her greatest joy as seen throughout the book was motherhood.
The book touched on several themes from traditional values vs modern values. The role of motherhood, marriage in a traditional and modern setting. Polygamy was also touched both in the traditional setting and in the modern setting. As a reader, I see how characters throughout the book struggle to adjust to these situations. Colonialism in Nigeria as seen through Nnu and her husband in Lagos. Motherhood is addressed throughout the novel. However, does the theme of motherhood meet a readers expectations? You will have to read to find out J
Two favorite quotes stood out for me in the book:
“Yes, life could at times be so brutal that the only things that made it livable were dreams.”- Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood
“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 and not just to him or her”.