Following the passing of Buchi Emecheta on January 26 at the age of 72, there has been an outburst of beautiful, heartfelt tributes to a woman considered to be an icon in her personal and professional lives. Nigerian novelist Sefi Atta wrote this solid one in KTravula. Read an excerpt below.
The first time I met Buchi Emecheta in person was in 2005, just after my debut novel Everything Good Will Come was published. I had contacted her through an old college mate, Kadija George, to ask for an endorsement, which she very kindly agreed to give. To paraphrase her endorsement, she wrote that reading my novel was like listening to an old friend talk about Lagos.
That was the same year she was awarded an OBE for her contribution to literature, and Kadija organised a celebratory dinner at a Caribbean restaurant in North London, to which I was invited. At the restaurant, she signed a copy of her book Head Above Water for me, with a message: “To Sefi, good luck with your publication, love from Auntie Buchi”. I read an excerpt from the book at today’s memorial event, not just because it’s autographed, but because it’s a testimony of what it means to be a writing mother, and because it’s good storytelling: entertaining and informative, guileless and revealing, intimate, and rendered in the meandering fashion of Igbo oral history, which, by the way, bears some resemblance to that of the American South, where I’m based most of the year.
Anyway, that evening at the restaurant, I found Buchi Emecheta pensive. I imagined she was aware of her achievements and was proud of them: all the novels, plays and children’s books she’d written, the family she had raised, and the obstacles she’d had to overcome. People often mention the burning of her first manuscript, but the daily grind of being a mother to young children, while getting a university degree and writing, was hard enough.
Read “Like Listening to an Aunt” in KTravula.