Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta was born to Ibo parents in Lagos on 21 July 1944. She moved to Britain in 1960, where she worked as a librarian and became a student at London University in 1970, reading Sociology. She worked as a community worker in Camden, North London, between 1976 and 1978.
Much of her fiction has focused on sexual politics and racial prejudice, and is based on her own experiences as both a single parent and a black woman living in Britain.
Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical In the Ditch, was published in 1972. It first appeared in a series of articles published in the New Statesman magazine, and, together with its sequel, Second Class Citizen (1974), provides a fictionalised portrait of a poor young Nigerian woman struggling to bring up her children in London. She began to write about the role of women in Nigerian society in The Bride Price (1976); The Slave Girl (1977), winner of the New Statesman Jock Campbell Award; and The Joys of Motherhood (1979), an account of women’s experiences bringing up children in the face of changing values in traditional Ibo society.
Her other novels include Destination Biafra (1982), set during the civil war in Nigeria; The Rape of Shavi (1983), an allegorical account of European colonisation in Africa; Gwendolen (1989), the story of a young West Indian girl living in London; and Kehinde (1994), about a middle-aged Nigerian wife and mother who returns to Nigeria after living in London for many years. Her final work of fiction, The New Tribe, was published in 2000.
Buchi Emecheta is also the author of several novels for children, including Nowhere to Play (1980) and The Moonlight Bride (1980). She published a volume of autobiography, Head Above Water, in 1986. Her television play, A Kind of Marriage, was first screened by the BBC in 1976. In 1983 she was selected as one of twenty ‘Best of Young British Writers’ by the Book Marketing Council. She lectured in the United States throughout 1979 as Visiting Professor at a number of universities and returned to Nigeria in 1980 as Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Professor of English at the University of Calabar.
She ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company with her son and was a member of the Home Secretary’s Advisory Council on Race. She was a member of the Arts Council from 1982 to 1983, and was a regular contributor to the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian.
Buchi Emecheta died in 2017.