Book Review, Inspiration — January 8, 2020 at 12:10 am

The Family by Buchi Emecheta


A Jamaican girl joins her parents in London at age eleven and makes formidable adjustments and choices to overcome the limitations of her family life.
The Family by Buchi Emecheta
Book Title: The Family
Author: Buchi Emecheta
Release date: 03/01/1990
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover – 239 pages – 978-0-8076-1245-3

Although her characters speak in authentic patois and authoritatively convey the grim travails of a dysfunctional emigre family in England, Emecheta’s novel is sapped by a search for human belonging and a constant struggle to take control of her own life. This is the story of a young Jamaican girl, Gwendolen Brillianton, who is born into poverty and deserted by her parents when they emigrate to London. Being reunited with her parents and the siblings she has never met does not end her problems, and she realizes she must fight her family and take control of her own life in order to recover from abuse and take pride in her self. Originally published as Gwendolen.

About the Book Author
Buchi Emecheta, who has died aged 72, was a pioneer among female African writers, championing the rights of girls and women in novels that often drew on her own extraordinary life, its trajectory spanning her struggle for an education to having her books set on school curriculums. Whether in her early vivid documentary novels, In the Ditch (1972) and Second-Class Citizen (1974) – about a young black single mother living in the slums of north London – or in the ironically titled The Joys of Motherhood (1979), set in a traditionally male-oriented society in colonial Nigeria, or in her autobiography Head Above Water (1984), or Gwendolen (1989), Emecheta’s writings epitomised female independence, the necessity to grow stronger in the face of any setback.

She was born in Lagos, Nigeria – her father was Jeremy Nwabudinke, a railway worker; her mother was Alice (nee Okwuekwuhe) – but it was with the town of Ibusa, where her Igbo parents originated, that she identified, having spent formative childhood years there. “Buchi’s life was always overshadowed by the poverty and the deprivations of her early years,” her son Sylvester said. “She was a sick, poorly and undernourished child but with a ravenous desire to survive, against all odds. She lost her father, who doted on her, when she was eight years old. With his passing, she and her younger brother were left at the mercy of a mother who, due to lack of education, was unable to appreciate the talent in the young girl.”

While committed to the liberation of women, she did not label herself a feminist, claiming: “Apart from telling stories, I don’t have a particular mission. I like to tell the world our part of the story while using the voices of women.” Emecheta also occasionally wrote plays and children’s books, as well as building a career as a visiting academic at US universities including Pennsylvania State, Rutgers, UCLA, and Yale, and becoming a resident fellow of English at the University of Calabar in Nigeria. With her son Sylvester, for a time she published under her own imprint, Ogwugwu Afor. In 2005 she was appointed OBE.

Although she had so effectively transformed dreams into reality, adversity into success, in 2010 a stroke curtailed her mobility and her writing, and she became progressively ill. Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta, writer, born July 21, 1944; died January 25, 2017


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