Remembering Buchi Emecheta

[By Shelia Bonner]

Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta was born July 21, 1944 in Lagos, Nigeria, to Igbo parents, Jeremy and Alice Nwabudinke. Her childhood was spent in Ibusa, the birthplace of her parents. In the 1950s she met her future husband Sylvester Onwordi. Between 1960 through 1966, the young couple bore five kids, two boys and three girls. Emecheta and her husband raised their family in London.

Their rocky marriage served to be the topic of several of Emecheta’s novels. Her 1974 Second Class Citizen details the conflicts of that marriage through the protagonist Adah. Other works by the Nigerian writer are In the Ditch (1972), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977), The Joys of Motherhood (1979), and Destination Biafra (1982). Emecheta also wrote several children’s books, most notably Nowhere to Play (1980). She is also known for A Kind of Marriage, a play aired by the BBC in 1976.

The esteemed writer was often invited to teach in American institutions of higher education. These invitations led her to Pennsylvania State, Rutgers, UCLA, and Yale. She served as a resident fellow of English at the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Several awards and honors were bestowed on Emecheta during her lifetime. She won the New Statesman Jock Campbell Award in 1978. In 1983, Granta named her “Best of the Young British Novelists”. Buchi Emecheta, in 2005, received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). The OBE, established by King George IV in 1917, is a prestigious honor bestowed to those whose works are great contributions to charitable and welfare organizations, public services, as well as to those who have made remarkable contributions to the arts and sciences.

Buchi Emecheta, who often identified as a womanist, made notable contributions to the literary and academic world before suffering from health complications from a 2010 stroke. She died January 25, 2017, in London at the age of 72. As scholars Hamid Farahmandian and Ehsaninia Shima once wrote: “Buchi Emecheta as one of the most debatable writers from Nigeria, did the best endeavors to demonstrate the culture and traditions of the Nigeria in the form of a tragedy novel to the world, she has been very ambitious and hopeful to see great changes in the attitudes of the African people about woman and her role in the family”(195). She serves to be the inspiration for younger writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Later this year, a memorial event will be held for Buchi Emecheta in London to celebrate her life and work.


Busby, Margaret. “Buchi Emecheta Obituary”. The Guardian, 3 February 2017, 

Farahmandian, Hamid and Ehsaninia Shima. “Dynamics of Tradition and Modernity in Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, v. 1, n. 4, p. 191-196, sep. 2012.