The Joys of Motherhood was written by Buchi Emecheta, a Nigerian-born British author, and published by Allison & Busby in 1979. Emecheta has written and published over twenty works, from novels to plays, each of which delve into the complexities of what it means to be a woman and a mother in societies where the morals and traditions are constantly changing. The protagonist, Nnu Ego, has bad fortune with childbearing, and through her life centered on her children, she gains her community’s respect.
As European governments take control of African nations and annex them to turn them into a source of raw materials and labor, the newly colonized nations experience conflict and change in their traditions and tribal values. As the readers follow Ego’s journey, Emecheta forces all to see the conflicts that result from adopting European ideals and traditions and instinctively following age old tradition. The influence of the colonialists erodes the community that the Ibo once held.
Emecheta also criticizes Ibos who use male privilege to their advantage, oppressing women, wives and daughters. Though women can be mothers, bearing children and raising them, the “joys of motherhood” are also painful and anxiety-inducing.
The Joys of Motherhood is one of Emecheta’s most pivotal and well known works, giving criticism on colonialism, tradition, and women’s roles and how they affect one woman, Nnu Ego, and her family.