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The Joys of Motherhood,
Buchi Emecheta

The Joys of Motherhood,
Buchi Emecheta

“On her way back to their room, it occurred to Nnu Ego that she was a prisoner, imprisoned by her love for her children, imprisoned by her role as the senior wife. She was not even expected to demand more money for her family; that was considered below the standard expected of a woman in her position. It was not fair, she felt, the way men cleverly used a woman’s sense of responsibility to actually enslave her. They knew that the traditional wife like herself would never dream of leaving her children.”

 

We’ve heard you loud and clear: a fiction unit is well overdue! We’re diving into this beautiful, captivating, and deeply emotive novel by the renowned Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta. The novel takes us through the joys of motherhood, but also the pain–of colonialism, patriarchy, war, empire, and the overlapping tensions and layers of womanhood for Nigerian women like Nnu Ego navigating the relationship between national British rule and local tribal authorities.

Temporally, the story takes place during World War II, 15-20 years before Nigerian independence from the United Kingdom. For those of us who were reading with us back in January for our Emergency Read on Sudan, our book for that unit, Africa Uprising: Popular Protest and Political Change by Adam Branch and Zachariah Mampilly, Chapter 5 on Nigeria’s own history with popular protest, the tensions between rural and urban life, legacies of British colonialism, and State’s corruption and despotism are now familiar themes that are also foreshadowed throughout this novel.

 

Be sure to tag us on Instagram & Twitter and use the hashtag #BecauseWeveRead to share your thoughts, reflections, and favorite passages as you read to join the global conversation! Stay tuned for our Youtube Live discussion as well, 

Additional resources

+ Our #BecauseWeveRead unit on Africa Uprising: Chapter 5: “The Precipitous Rise and Fall of Occupy Nigeria”

Head Above Water, Buchi Emecheta’s autobiography (excerpt here)

+ An interview with Buchi Emecheta transcript, (1988)

+ Interview with Buchi Emecheta discussing her book Second Class Citizen, video filmed in 1975

+ Books & Rhymes podcast & instagram page

+ “Goodbye to Buchi Emecheta, Celebrated Nigerian Novelist Who Broke Gender Barriers” article

+ Celebrating Buchi Emecheta, a series of videos reflecting on the author’s significance

“Remembering my mother Buchi Emecheta, 1944-2017” essay

+ Select writing (PDFs) from Criticism and Ideology: Second African Writers’ Conference (1986): “Feminism with a small ‘f’!” (Buchi Emecheta ), “To Be an African Woman Writer – an Overview and a Detail” (Ama Ata Aidoo), “African Motherhood Myth and Reality” (Lauretta Ngcobo)

World, Class, Women: Global Literature, Education, and Feminism (Robin Truth Goodman) Chapter 4: “The Triumphant but Tragic Wealth of the Poor: Buchi Emecheta Meets Hernando De Soto’s Informal Markets”

+ “African Literature Doesn’t Exist” transcript of speech by Taiye Selasi at the Literatur Festival in Berlin in 2013

+ Buchi Emecheta speaking on her early school days, video interview with BBC (1997)

+ “Womanism: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English” journal article by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi in the University of Chicago Press, Vol. 11, No. 1, Autumn 1985

Africa Wo/Man Palava, book by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi (the whole book is brilliant but here’s a PDF to Chapter 5, “Buchi Emecheta: The Been-To (Bintu) Novel”)

+ The Twelve Best Books by African Women : Critical Readings, book edited by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi and Tuzyline Jita Allan; Chapter 5: “Dreads of (Dis)order: Competing Visions of Colonial Nigeria in Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood

To Exist is to Resist, book by Akwugo Emejulu and Francesca Sobande

+ Feminism, Interrupted, book by Lola Olufemi

Chapters

Chapter List:
All Chapters:
Detroit, USA
Vienna, Austria
Seattle, USA
Vancouver, Canada
London, Canada
Montreal, Canada
London, United Kingdom
Karachi, Pakistan / کراچی
Tehran, Iran / تهران
Mumbai, India / मुंबई
Dubai, United Arab Emirates / دبي
Lahore, Pakistan / لاہور
Barcelona, Spain
Auckland, New Zealand
New York City, USA
Nairobi, Kenya
Jakarta, Indonesia
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mauritius
Denver, USA
Melbourne, Australia
Doha, Qatar / الدوحة
Toronto, Canada
Detroit, USA
×
  • Hosts: Michael and Samantha
Vienna, Austria
×
  • Hosts: Victoria & Natasha
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.vienna@gmail.com

Seattle, USA
×
  • Hosts: Alia & Imaan
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.seattle@gmail.com

Vancouver, Canada
×
  • Hosts: Julia & Dyalla
  • Local Bookstore Partner: Estelita’s library
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.vancouver@gmail.com

London, Canada
×
  • Host: Asiya
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.londonon@gmail.com

Montreal, Canada
×
  • Hosts: Mona & Celia
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.montreal@gmail.com

London, United Kingdom
×
  • Hosts: Maryam & Alliyah
  • Contact Info:

    london.bwr@gmail.com

Karachi, Pakistan / کراچی
×
  • Hosts: Sheema & Amal
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.karachi@gmail.com

Tehran, Iran / تهران
×
  • Host: Farid
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.tehran@gmail.com

Mumbai, India / मुंबई
×
  • Host: Smriti
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.mumbai@gmail.com

Dubai, United Arab Emirates / دبي
×
  • Hosts: Reem & Noha
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.dubai@gmail.com

Lahore, Pakistan / لاہور
×
  • Host: Madiha
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.lahore@gmail.com

Barcelona, Spain
×
  • Host: Diana
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.barcelona@gmail.com

Auckland, New Zealand
×
  • Host: Zainab
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.auckland@gmail.com

New York City, USA
×
  • Host: Anisa
  • Contact Info:

    nyc.bwr@gmail.com

Nairobi, Kenya
×
  • Host: Suhayl
  • Contact Info:

    nairobi.bwr@gmail.com

Jakarta, Indonesia
×
  • Hosts: Sahnaz, Intan & Shaffira
  • Contact Info:

    jakarta.bwr@gmail.com

Birmingham, United Kingdom
×
  • Hosts: Milga & Georgia
  • Contact Info:

    birmingham.bwr@gmail.com

Mauritius
×
  • Hosts: Sana & Grace
  • Contact Info:

    saalimohamed17@gmail.com

Denver, USA
×
  • Hosts: Amena, Satvinder, & Mona
  • Contact Info:

    bwr.denver@gmail.com

Melbourne, Australia
×
  • Host: Jasmine
  • Contact Info:

    melbourne.bwr@gmail.com

Doha, Qatar / الدوحة
×
  • Hosts: Mariana & Moza
  • Contact Info:

    bwrdoha@gmail.com

Toronto, Canada
×
  • Hosts: Haider & Frishta
#BecauseWeveRead Local Chapters

We have dozens of locally-organized and autonomously-run #BecauseWeveRead chapters led by brilliant activists, artists, students, human rights lawyers, teachers, mothers, musicians, and other like-minded people around the world! Each chapter is responsible for creatively engaging their greater communities and building grassroots movements around literacy, accessibility of reading, and the topics covered in the readings.

Local chapters are important to bring people together and build local community centered on radical reading, and using our virtual programming as an entry point for broader, intersectional community organizing.

Joining a Chapter

Found your city above? Shoot your host(s) an email introducing yourself and they’ll get back to you with more information on upcoming events, discussion groups, and other efforts they’re working on you can get plugged into!

Start Your Own Chapter

Don’t see your city listed above and want to bring #BecauseWeveRead to your city? Shoot us an email at bwr@joojooazad.com to start the conversation and learn more! We’re always looking for new and creative people to join our team and help us build our global community!

Community Discussions
Jamila Woods on James Baldwin

The past week, the United States has witnessed what Angela Davis has called a possibly unprecedented moment in demands being made globally for radical and systemic challenges to racism and legacies of slavery. This moment is exciting, inspiring, painful, intense, beautiful, shocking, brilliant, and messy. And we’re here for all of it. But immensely important in these moments is also grounding: spiritual/religious grounding, community grounding, and historical grounding. This moment is both new and a legacy of what was made possible by the freedom fighters before us; both visionary and historic; we are speaking new languages and articulating new demands crafted from the alphabets of James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and so many others. So let’s dive into their words.

We’re excited and honored that the brilliant poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods will be joining us as our discussant for this unit!

Emergency Read on Kashmir

In light of the ongoing and accelerating Indian military occupation of Kashmir, lack of media attention, and urgent calls for international solidarity, #BecauseWeveRead is honored to be partnering with Stand With Kashmir to host this ‘Emergency Read’ on Kashmir. Join the brilliant Sanjay Kak (filmmaker & writer), Hafsa Kanjwal (professor & writer), & Mohamad Junaid (professor & writer) in a conversation describing & contextualizing what is happening on the ground in Kashmir, right now.

Arundhati Roy on Empire & Power

Referred to in the New York Times as “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence,” Arundhati Roy stands as one of the most influential writers in the world today. Her writing includes the award-winning The God of Small Things, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, Capitalism: A Ghost Story, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, among other fiction and non-fiction work. But beyond her writing, her work also extends into the streets: Roy is an outspoken activist, frequently working on and discussing issues related to India’s illegal military occupation of Kashmir, anti-Zionism, political repression, caste and class, and a myriad of environmental and human rights issues — many of which are discussed in our February/March 2019 read, The End of Imagination. We love a principled, badass woman.

Nisrin Elamin on #Sudan and Africa Uprisings

In light of ongoing massive protests in Sudan, their lack of coverage in mainstream media outlets, and the dire need to contextualize these protest within Sudan’s own particular political and historical contexts (which many non-Sudanese and non-African people seem to lack knowledge of), we’re calling for a #BecauseWeveRead ‘Emergency Read’ for the month of January to help us better understand what is happening in Sudan right now, and how we can support. We’re joined today with Nisrin Elamin, a Sudanese PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University. Her doctoral research focuses broadly on the phenomenon of “foreign land grabs” in post-secession Sudan. It seeks to understand how the differential impact of state-driven land dispossession is being negotiated and contested in several communities in the agricultural Gezira region.

Naomi Klein Discusses The Shock Doctine
Naomi Klein, the brilliant scholar, author, and most recently the Inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair for Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University, is joining us at #BecauseWeveRead to discuss her book, The Shock Doctrine, and its continued relevance on a global scale.
#BecauseWeveRead: How it Works
Goals
Process
Global Chapters
Emergency Reads

To raise our collective awareness and understanding of global politics, race, capitalism, gender, religion, culture, history, colonialism, socioeconomic disparity etc, in ways that disrupt normative narratives

To uplift and celebrate stories of those whose identities are marginalized and whose voices are systematically silenced globally, as their stories are powerful models of effective resistance against power, and their lived experiences challenge state narratives.

To build & mobilize transnational communities, conversations, and movements united in shared struggle while simultaneously making radical literature more accessible to the communities that need them the most.

Every two months a new unit will be announced here on our website, in our newsletter, and on social media. Each unit has a central book that will always be made available as a free e-book, and is accompanied by additional multimedia resources such as essays, films, databases, poetry, photoessays, and other materials that complement the unit.

Think of each unit as a mini syllabus on a particular topic.

Throughout each 2-month long unit, all of our members (i.e. anyone who is reading with us around the world at any particular time) are encouraged to post their thoughts, reflections, favorite quotes, or other commentary related to the readings or unit on social media using the hashtag #BecauseWeveRead to be part of a global conversation.

Each unit also includes a Youtube Live discussion hosted by Hoda Katebi and a different esteemed guest. Past guests have included Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, and others. The Youtube Live discussions are open to the public and viewers are encouraged to ask questions and engage in the conversation with the host, guest, and each other.

You can find previous live discussions, many of which have also been adapted into podcast episodes, linked in each book post in our digital library, or on the “Community Discussions” page.

#BecauseWeveRead is unique for many reasons, but we’re most excited about our growing list of local chapters globally!

Smaller, more intimate conversations on a local level are an incredibly helpful tool to better understand and engage with texts while simultaneously learning from and building community.

Our global chapters are largely autonomously run by local leaders (most of whom are women and non-binary people of color!) who we train and support as needed. Each chapter hosts an open, local community discussion for each unit, and often hosts other events and projects related to the unit.

Our chapters have organized everything from sold-out panels and poetry slams on Islamophobia & Anti-Blackness to letter-writing events and book drives for people currently incarcerated to week-long event series at their local university supporting the struggles of Kashmiris under Indian occupation!

Get involved & find the closest chapter to you on our “Chapters” page!

Can’t find a chapter in your city? Get in touch with us if you’re interested in launching a new chapter and bringing #BecauseWeveRead to your community!

#BecauseWeveRead actively adapts and responds to major global crisis as they develop. To do so, we occasionally will call for one-month ‘Emergency Readings’ on a particular crisis that needs urgent attention.

Typically, we focus on situations that: a) lack global attention b) are deeply misunderstood/the general global public lacks major context c) are immediate and actively-unfolding situations in which people on the ground are asking for global solidarity in ways that #BecauseWeveRead and our chapters and members can clearly respond to

Unfortunately, there are countless important issues and causes globally that deserve to be uplifted. We are often inundated with requests to launch an ‘Emergency Read’ in respond to various ongoing local & global crises and unfortunately cannot focus on them all.

We want to name that several factors go into announcing an ‘Emergency Read’, and even if an official announcement is not made, often times many of our chapters will still focus on these issues on a local level.

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