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On the Book Shelf- Buchi Emecheta

alec vanderboom

"The Joys of Motherhood" is hideously misnamed since the entire plot explores how motherhood has become devalued in Nigeria by the changes under colonial rule. The main character ends up dying alone in a ditch "without any child to hold her hand, or any friend to talk to," despite being the dedicated mother of nine children. Not exactly an uplifting read today, especially in a house full of tiny allergy suffers.

Still there was a humorous passage which I wanted to share. Nnu Ego, the protagonist has just become pregnant with her second child and realizes that she can't continue her market trading days to buy this baby an expensive naming day ceremony such as she had for her first child.

"She had reminded herself of the old saying that money and children don't go together: if you spent all your time making money and getting rich, the gods wouldn't give you any children; if you wanted children, you had to forget money, and be content to be poor. She did not remember how this saying had originated among her people, perhaps it was because a nursing mother in Ibuza could not go to the market to sell for long, before she had to rush home to feed her baby. And of course babies were always ill, which meant that the mother would lose many market days. Nnu Ego realized that part of the pride of motherhood was to look a little unfashionable and be able to draw with joy: "I can't afford another outfit, because I am nursing him, so you see I can't go anywhere to sell anything."

One usually received the answer, "Never mind, he will grow soon and clothe you and farm for you, so that your old age will be sweet." pg.80

Exploring the virtues of poverty, content with unfashionable old clothes, and persevering through current hardships with the promise of a sweet old age filled with family, who knew my life could so closely resemble that of a mother in 1930s Nigeria?