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buchi emecheta

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.

sefi-atta

Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good Will Come.

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.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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