chapter  5
25 Pages

‘THEIR NEW SISTER’

Buchi Emecheta and the contemporary African literary tradition

Buchi Emecheta’s first novel, In the Ditch, was published in 1972, six years after Ogot’s The Promised Land and Nwapa’s Efuru. Asked in an interview about her relationship ‘to other female writers, such as Flora Nwapa, Grace Ogot, Christina Aidoo and Bessie Head’, Emecheta described herself as ‘their new sister’ (Umeh and Umeh 25), thus acknowledging her debt to the women writers who have preceded her and placing herself within the literary tradition that has emerged with their writing. In her fiction, too, Emecheta pays tribute to her female predecessors, especially to her Igbo compatriot Flora Nwapa whom she identifies as a role model. Sometimes the acknowledgement of indebtedness is quite explicit, as in her second novel, Second-Class Citizen (1974), where the heroine Adah points to Nwapa’s success as a writer when her husband, prior to burning the manuscript of Adah’s first novel, ridicules the very idea of a black woman becoming a writer (184). Emecheta’s awareness of her membership in a literary sisterhood marks the emergence of a self-conscious female literary tradition. One of my aims in this chapter will be to highlight some of the features of this tradition.