On January 26, Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta passed away at the age of 72. [read here if you missed it.] Fellow authors took to social media to celebrate her life and the significance of her work.
We are able to speak because you first spoke.
Thank you for your courage.
Thank you for your art.
Nodu na ndokwa.
Chika Unigwe (Facebook):
I remember meeting Buchi years ago in London (with other Caine Prize shortlisted writers Monica Arac de Nyeko, Brian Chikwava, Parselelo Kantai and Doreen Baingana) and the conversation turned to the whys of our writing . A journalist (?) asked if we wrote for the love of writing or for money. And we all said for the love it of course. Buchi gave us an earful. “You don’t hear journalists say they do their jobs for the love of it! There is nothing wrong with making money from writing! It’s a job like any other!” (Or something along those lines) She taught me the very valuable lesson that pursuing your passion and making money from it are not mutually exclusive.
Okey Ndibe (Facebok):
In her quiet but significant way, Buchi Emecheta was a visionary writer, an irrepressible spirit, and a creative pioneer. I had the fortune of sharing the stage with her in London in 2000, shortly after the publication of my first novel. Now she has taken her art to heaven’s gate!
Zukiswa Wanner (Facebook):
I finished reading Buchi Emecheta’s The New Tribe on Tuesday, which I’d been reading as my break book between the ‘work reading’ (Commonwealth Short stories). Today I woke up to news of her demise. My reading seems like the best way to bid farewell to a writer. I never got to meet Ms. Emecheta to thank her for paving the way for some of us with her writing, but I’m truly grateful for it. Without her and many of her generation, the rest of us wouldn’t have known that despite the struggles, it’s possible to have a career as a writer. If there’s a literary heaven, may she find all the books that she had been meaning to read there.
Kadija Sesay (The Guardian):
Her fictionalised life story showed women that they could survive and succeed through adversity and abuse and stand up for feminism – all without using those actual words….[Emecheta was] a rock for women writers and single mothers in an unnassuming way … Buchi was warm, caring and humorous. We are going to miss her so much.
I was interviewed on the BBC last night about Buchi Emecheta (the link to it is in the post below). I had just arrived in Buffalo, NY, stepping off the plane crying. Nothing like suddenly finding yourself being interviewed by the BBC for a subject that is so fresh. Phew.
Few can understand how much Emecheta’s work meant to me. She meant just as much to me as Octavia Butler. She was telling the narratives of African women in a way that was so unapologetic, CLEAR, fierce and *African*. She taught me how to properly channel the stories I had to tell, her work gave me permission to do it. When I look at my novella Binti, my novels Who Fears Death, even the The Book of Phoenix, I see her influence all over them. Yes, she influenced science fiction and fantasy stories. It’s not always about genre or category; a lot of the time it’s about soul and deep narrative.
I met her once when she came to speak in Chicago. I was so shocked to be standing in front of her that I don’t even remember what I said. I’m still reeling from the fact that she is gone. I can only hope that her passing will alert more people to her amazing works.
Post image via Black British Women Writers