This is my third read from Buchi Emecheta. In times past, I have enjoyed her other books, The Joys of Motherhood and Head Above Water. Emecheta’s books are often fictionalized autobiography as she draws her stories from her own personal experiences.
Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, published in 1983 by George Braziller, Inc, deals with Adah’s experiences and her courage to survive as a woman, a wife and a writer. As a young woman, Adah was always at home with her mother while her father was away at work. Adah had a brother who attended school. Adah was determined to go to school just like his brother. Her dream to go to school develops as the thought of a school teacher who passes by their house and smiles at her drops off in her head. One day, Adah runs to the classroom of this teacher and finds herself disrupting the class. The students in the class stare at her and she does not know what to expect. But the teacher smiles at her and allows her into his class.
After her father dies, Adah marries Francis and works hard to support her husband and children. Francis is due to travel to the United Kingdom. Initially, Adah wants to travel with him but plans do not go as she wants and so Francis takes the lead and she joins him later on with her children. Adah works so hard to pay for Francis’s education and at the same time look after the children. Later on, we see Francis become abusive, unappreciative and too lazy to work. He thinks that they are second-class citizens in the United Kingdom as they are not citizens of the country. Adah, on the other hand is all out for success, determined to prove to everyone that she can become first – rated in United Kingdom.
As Adah works her way out to get a first class job and be respected in her new country, here’s what her so-called husband, Francis tells her:
“You must know, my dear young lady, that in Lagos you may be a million publicity officers for the Americans; you may be earning a million pounds a day; you may have hundreds of servants: you may be living like an elite, but the day you land in England, you are a second-class citizen. So you can’t discriminate against your own people, because we are all second-class.”(p37)
Although Adah does not consider herself as a second-class citizen in the United Kingdom, the discouraging words from Francis affect her at some level.
‘This had a curious psychological effect on her. Whenever she went into big clothes stores, she would automatically go to the counters carrying soiled and discarded items, afraid of what the shop assistants might say. Even if she had enough money for the best, she would start looking at the sub-standard ones and then work her way up.’ (p71)
In the United Kingdom, Adah had wants to become a writer. Her first novel, The Bride Price, though unpublished gains good recommendations from the people she shows it to. As usual, Francis provides little support.
Right to the end of the book , Adah never gives up hope. She struggles her way out to live the dream of being rated a first-class citizen. This is an interesting read.