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The Joys of Motherhood

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,950 ratings  ·  300 reviews
Nnu Ego is a woman who gives all her energy, money and everything she has to raising her children - leaving her little time to make friends.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 4th 1994 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published May 17th 1979)
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Trésor Beware of the title and don't be fooled. It is a wonderful book to read and to learn a bit about among others, the encounter of 2 different worlds,…moreBeware of the title and don't be fooled. It is a wonderful book to read and to learn a bit about among others, the encounter of 2 different worlds, western world (Lagos, capitalism, WW2, colonialism, christianism etc...) and traditional one represented by Ibuza, a local community in the Delta region of Nigeria, with its own traditions, beliefs, etc. Is there a main story? To me there are too many very important stories: patriarchy, the place of women in society, the traditional and the "modern" as in both worlds, women are still not equals to men. Colonization didn't help in her quest for freedom at all, don't mind Christianism which was an integral part of the quest to the Civilizing Mission. Do women exist only after giving birth to baby boys? Does a baby girl not as important as a boy? Is there any joy in Motherhood at all from this book? Too many questions to go by.. (less)

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Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
“Yes, life could at times be so brutal that the only things that made it livable were dreams.”- Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood

It's been a while since I've read an African novel that has touched me this much. This is a story that had me transfixed from the start, a tale of heartache, hope, and change. The book’s structure is reminiscent of "Things Fall Apart" in that the early part of the book takes place in an African village that still followed its traditional ways, while the latter
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Lagos had been a mistress (Ona), her lover (Agbadi) would have been the British, and had they produced a child, that child (Nnu Ego) would have been Nigeria. That child would have married her first husband (the British protectorate - colonization) but would have borne no children by him (Oluwum), so he would have abandoned her. She would have married again (post-colonization- Independence), this time producing offsprings with her second husband (Nnaife) and together, they would have fought to ...more
Nnu Ego's father is a great man, so much so that when his senior wife dies, her burial is a grand affair. She must take everything she will need in the afterlife with her, including her personal slave, a beautiful and vivacious young woman captured from another tribe. The woman begs for her life, but to no avail, she is executed. Her restless soul bonds with the recently conceived Nnu Ego and becomes her chi, her personal god.

The great father, Agbadi, feels compassion for the slain slave and to
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
wonderful. this novel takes you deep into igbo culture and nigerian culture as a while in the 30s/40s. you see the connection and conflict between the old and the new, the traditional and the foreign. you see the role that world war II played in nigeria, too. and she never gives easy or simple answers. emecheta writes the most thought-provoking addictive page-turners. also for westerners, this novel is a good exercise in walking in someone else's shoes.
Raul Bimenyimana
A moving story wonderfully written. Buchi Emecheta narrates of the woes and hardships women, particularly poor women, face in a patriarchal society.

Moving through rural to urban colonial Nigeria, this book explores the burdening demands placed on women. Nnu Ego who is the protagonist of the story lives her whole life in servitude of the men in her life, first her father then her husband and later her sons, all the while leaving her with nothing but harsh solitude and weariness.

I normally hesita
Monika Singh
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This ironically titled tale of Nnu Ego is, in layers, a plain feminist text. The Joys of Motherhood covers both the traditional as well as the 'modern' (aka, the British colonialism). Emecheta draws a stolid picture of the woes and hardship of women, particularly a poor woman in a patriarchal world. Just like any other commodities, even the women themselves believe that their husbands own them. Nnu Ego gave her whole life to be on the receiving end of the 'joys of motherhood', but when she died, ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Not at all my cup of tea. I understand of course that it's a classic of African feminism, but I found no literary value in it.

And I expect to encounter this experience frequently this year as I flip through my shelves of AWS and Virago. Which sounds condescending, but don't. Typically I read, led by the nose by my spidey senses which are oddly reliable. Here I'm reading rather arbitrarily ; just whatever these publishers put on their shelves and which I happened to find on the shelves of booksh
There's an awful lot crammed into The Joys of Motherhood. At just over two hundred pages, it manages to give a picture of the status and roles available to a Nigerian woman from the 30s to the 50s; to detail the effects of urbanisation and colonialism; and to tell the life story of Nnu Ego, an Igbo woman from Nigeria, a story so grindingly sad that the title of the book must surely be one of the most sarcastic I've ever come across. It took me quite some time to read it, given its size, mostly b ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, african, favorites
What a destiny, what a life. So this is what it is like to be a mother ? a devoted one ? a faithful wife . Nnu Ego i admire you.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women interested in the African world and its impact on women
Recommended to ☯Emily by: Montclair Reading Club
If I tell you that the title of the book is ironic, that will really tell you everything you need to know. Nnu Ego is a Nigerian woman raising a family in a swiftly changing society. Raised in a typical African village, she is thrust into a rapidly growing city of Lagos when she marries a man working there. There is no family support for her as she tries to adjust to married life in a strange environment. Her first child dies in the first chapter of the book and she is devastated by the loss. Ho ...more
Diane Brown
Beautifully written, authentic story and captivating. Buchi is a great writer. She has taken a story and told it simply to give a glimpse of the plight of a woman in Nigeria, but can be applied everywhere. She handles the issues of patriarchy, the eldest son, the value of a girl child and the contradictions and complexities of culture and traditions, against the backdrop and an Africa getting colonised. Simply masterful.
Adriana Scarpin
Há tantos motivos para se gostar desse livro que nem sei por onde começar...
A primeira coisa que nos salta aos olhos é a qualidade da prosa da autora, ao mesmo tempo que ela envolve o leitor, o seu conteúdo de uma cultura extremamente diferente da nossa tanto no tempo quanto no espaço, é um abrir de olhos incomensurável. Apesar da cultura nigeriana de meados do século XX ser extremamente distinta da nossa brasileira do século XXI, esse livro tem uma qualidade universal a respeito da maternidade
Alessandra JJ
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sem palavras pra esse livro. Espero que as editoras acordem e publiquem mais coisas dessa autora fantástica por aqui. Tinha que ser indicação da Chimamanda <3
Laís Arjona
How much do you know about other women's struggles? Their pain? Tthe oppression and the fears other women fight everyday? How much do you know about their reality?
This book tells the story of a woman living in the colonial Nigeria, where motherhood is attached to honor, where having children is an obrigation. Nnu Ego has to struggle with infertility, the death of her kids, the hungry, the war, the colonialism, the abuses of a husband that sees her as an object. The opression, the fear, the angui
To Nnu Ego the joys of motherhood meant acceptance in her community that she has fulfilled her role as a woman. Unfortunately her joy is short lived as she battles to keep her family feed with a dreamer, simple husband, a couple of second wives to contend with, limited income and constant pregnancies. Her husband is press ganged into the army to fight for Britain which adds more to Nnu Ego's problems. But as hard as she tried her results became futile being deserted by her pride and joy eldest s ...more
Jerome Kuseh
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african
A sad story of a woman in the first half of 20th Century Nigeria who sacrifices everything for her children and gains nothing but the empty praise of a patriarchal society for bearing male children.

This is a story that examines the struggle to hold on to traditional Ibo values in a cosmopolitan and European influenced society.

It is also the ultimate 'be careful what you wish for tale', as a woman goes from the extreme of barrenness to having 7 children, and wondering if all her suffering was wor
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one book I could NOT wait to finish, not because it is not good. It is in fact a BRILLIANT book and checks all the boxes of what qualifies it as a masterpiece! I could not wait to finish it because it is painful. Poverty and Black pain is triggering, As much as it was a page turner, I did so with tears in my eyes at times. I'm still thinking about Nnu Ego and her plight because she tells a story that is lived by so many African women
Madeline Cruz
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is powerful. The reader is given an insight to the hidden world of African women in the first half of the twentieth century. However, the ending is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking endings I have ever read. Although it was indeed sad, the way the author wrote the ending was completely necessary. I realize now as I'm holding this novel in my hands that I had hoped for Nnu Ego with all my heart throughout her tale - the very same hope she was putting into her children. The disappoin ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: para-2017
que livro maravilhoso! não porque foi uma indicação da Chimamanda... mas porque ele é um livro forte! que mostra o sofrimento da mulher nigeriana, tratada como um objeto qualquer... um livro que deixa a gente incomodado por retratar de forma tão intensa o machismo, mas que ao mesmo tempo envolve pela escrita cativante de Buchi. A biografia da autora é muito sofrida, talvez comparável em parte à de sua personagem, e Buchi cumpriu seu objetivo de divulgar a situação da mulher nigeriana para o mund ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly moving story. It follows so much of Nnu Ego’s life that now I feel like I really know her. I felt all of her joy and pain. (Although, it did also feel really long since it follows her entire life from before she was even born). This was an interesting piece of intersectional feminism; respectful of traditional culture yet also critical of it, as well as the way in which it was increasingly influenced by urbanisation and colonisation.
Alexandre Mano
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tag, emprestado
Ah, que delícia reviver a África c esse livro nigeriano! Foi de um imenso prazer essa leitura, apesar do final ter sido um pouco arrastado por mim. A impressionante história de culturas machistas influenciarem gerações e gerações ... Isso já mudou, mas ainda requer renovação, modernização ... sempre com consciência e respeito. Abaixo a cultura do macho e a submissão feminina ou qualquer forma de submissão nociva! adorei!
Leslie Reese
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-authors
Enthralling and devastating!
Rowland Pasaribu
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Buchi Emecheta is one of a growing number of African women writers who have set their authorial eyes on the conditions of women living both on their home continent and abroad. She takes her place among Tsitsi Dangarembga, Miriama Ba, Bessie Head, Ama Ata Aidoo, Lauretta Ngcobo, and Lindsey Collen, to name a few, as writers who have formed an intense new voice of African womanhood. Emecheta has published more than twenty works, including the novels Double Yoke, The Bride Price, Head above Water, ...more
Rosana Marron
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Não tem como não se identificar com a autora e suas personagens.

A história se passa na Nigéria colonial no início do século XX e narra a trajetória da jovem Nnu Ego. O livro mostra o sofrimento dessa mulher para cumprir o papel que lhe cabe no mundo: ser mãe. E como é difícil ser mãe na Nigéria da colonização inglesa, gente!

A identificação com o povo nigeriano também é completa: sua história colonial, suas dificuldades, o patriarcado, sua cultura, a violência, enfim, muita relação com a experiê
Neal Adolph
Wow. I think I was in a trance when I was reading most of this work. It was as though it was the history of a nation growing up and being entirely unsure that progress was being made, told through the parable of a woman's experience as a mother. This mission in story-telling is one that I approach with excitement - both William Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault) and Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children) have done it so well, and with devastating powers of observation. The scope here, though, is sma ...more
Lazy Mimi Reads
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this years ago as a secondary school student in Nigeria. I remember thinking how ironical the title of the book was. Did she reap the fruits of her labor?
Did she truly experience the joy of motherhood?
I think we can all agree that she experienced the unfairness of life and injustice that comes with it.
The setting of the book was not unfamiliar to me so I found myself justifying some of her actions.
The end of the book was bittersweet because her children gave her a lavish funeral but ne
Alessandra Anyzewski
Muito interessante! A ironia do título é bem evidente.
Mostra valores de uma cultura totalmente diferente da nossa, que me davam pequenos sustos a cada ponto de vista que era apresentado. Narrativa simples e que prende.
Adorei o primeiro contato com a literatura nigeriana! É ótimo sair mais uma vez dessa coisa quadradinha branca/européia/nobre que estamos acostumados a ler. Tem tanta coisa acontecendo "lá fora" (vulgo, aqui embaixo do nosso nariz).
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have actually read this novel about a dozen times but I am a HUGE Emecheta fan and decided to use this novel for my Non-Western Lit class this semester. I re-read it along with my students and we had some fascinating discussions on motherhood, feminism, masculinity, and Africa. If you have never picked up an Emecheta novel, this is a great one to start with!
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
Sou uma prisioneira da minha própria carne e de meu próprio sangue... os homens nos fazem acreditar que precisamos desejar filhos ou morrer.
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Buchi Emecheta OBE was a Nigerian novelist who has published over 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Her themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education have won her considerable critical acclaim and honours, including an Order of the British Empire in 2005. Emechet ...more
“God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage? she prayed desperately.” 17 likes
“Nnu Ego was like those not-so well-informed Christians who,promised the Kingdom of Heaven,believed that it was literally just round the corner and that Jesus Christ was coming on the very morrow. Many of them would hardly contribute anything ton this world,reasoning, "What is the use? Christ will come soon" They became so insulated in their beliefs that not only would they have little to do with ordinary sinners,people going about their daily work, they even pitied them and in many cases looked down on them because the Kingdom of God was not for the likes of them. Maybe this was a protective mechanism devised to save them from realities too painful to accept.” 4 likes
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