The Joys of Motherhood could be considered as one of the forebears of feminist issues on reproductive justice and culture within the rich Nigerian literary tradition.
Editor’s note: This essay is available in print in our latest issue on The Life and Legacy of Buchi Emecheta. Buy the issue here.
A woman is more than her womb. This is the lesson that Buchi Emecheta’s novel The Joys of Motherhood impressed on me when I first encountered it in my second year of secondary school. A simple idea then and now, yet it remains charged with socio-political tension both in Nigeria as well as in the diaspora. Especially as conversations about reproductive justice and the state’s role in controlling women’s reproductive capacities continues to become polarized and politicized on numerous stages.
It has been more than four decades since the publication of Emecheta’s novel yet the issues it attends to are far from resolved. In 1979, when The Joys of Motherhood was released, second-wave feminism which had largely centred the voices and perspectives of middle-class White women was coming to an end. Meanwhile, what we might refer to as Nigerian feminism today, was burgeoning with the establishment of the political group, Women in Nigeria, in 1983, four years after the publication of Emecheta’s fifth novel. The Joys of Motherhood could be considered as one of the forebears of feminist issues on reproductive justice and culture within the rich Nigerian literary tradition. On par with Flora Nwapa’s 1966 Efuru...
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