Study Guide

The Joys of Motherhood Race

By Buchi Emecheta

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The biggest conflict over race in The Joys of Motherhood is the fact that Ibo men feel emasculated by working for white colonial officials. Nnu Ego is barely able to look at her husband Nnaife when she realizes that he washes clothes for a white woman. Racial conflicts persist even when most of the whites leave to fight World War II, and as Nigeria moves towards independence. The new racial conflicts have less to do with power relations, and more to do with ethnicity and culture. For example, the Yoruba look down on the Ibo. This is why Nnaife is so enraged when his daughter, Kehinde, runs away with a Yoruba man.

Questions About Race

  1. How do the black characters in this novel perceive whites? Why is this important?
  2. How do the few whites depicted in this novel perceive blacks? What does this tell you about colonialism?
  3. What racial conflicts are there between different ethnic groups within Nigeria itself? How do the Ibo perceive the Hausa? The Yoruba? How do the Yoruba perceive the Ibo?

Chew on This

Even though whites are the ultimate oppressors in this novel, the Yoruba, Hausa, and Ibo fail to unite in order to throw off the chains of colonialism.

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