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Buchi Emecheta

  • Original Title: SECOND CLASS CITIZEN
  • Publication date: December 1974
  • Publisher: Allison & Busby
  • Country: NG
  • 176 print pages
  • Drama/Classic


  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century
  • Location setting: Nigeria, United Kingdom
  • Themes: FAMILY, Couple, Maternity, Emancipation, PEOPLE facing life, Personal fulfilment, SOCIETY DYSFUNCTIONS, Inequality, Education (illiteracy), Racism, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Multiculturalism, Integration, CHARACTERS, Strong Female Character


In the late 1960s, the story of a young Nigerian bride brought to London by her husband, a graduate student, and the coercive control under which she lives. She will break away from that life and form her own, deal with racism, get herself an education and raise her four children as a single mother.


Originally published in the UK by Allison and Busby, Heinemann reissued in the UK in 1994.

Landmark Nigerian-British novel about a young Nigerian bride brought to London by her husband, a graduate student, and the coercive control under which she lives-her breaking away from that life and forming her own, including dealing with racism, getting herself an education and raising her four children as a single mother is inspiring and at times harrowing. A story of independence, hope and a depiction of a 1960’s London which feels very different than today. Emecheta is being lauded as a precursor to Bernadine Evaristo, and rightly so.


In the late 1960s, Adah, a spirited and resourceful woman manages to move her family to London. Seeking an independent life for herself and her children, she encounters racism and hard truths about being a new citizen.

At the beginning of the novel, Adah is a child of Ibos from Ibuza, Nigeria, living in Lagos. She dreams as a young girl of moving to the United Kingdom. After her father dies, Adah is sent to live with her uncle's family.

She is able to stay in school in Nigeria and attains employment working for the British embassy as a library clerk. The compensation from this job is enough to make her a desirable bride to Francis (her now husband) and in-laws.

Francis travels to the United Kingdom for several years to pursue the study of law. Adah convinces her husband's family that she and the children also belong in the UK. Francis believes they are second-class citizens in the United Kingdom as they are not citizens of the country. Adah finds employment working for another library and pays for their expenses, while also providing primary care for their children.

Later, we see Francis become increasingly abusive and dismissive of Adah as she pursues her dream of becoming a writer.

Kirkus review

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  • Author’s biography

    Buchi Emecheta (1944 - 2017) was a Nigerian-born novelist, based in the UK from 1962, who also wrote plays and an autobiography, as well as works for children. She was the author of more than 20 books, including SECOND CLASS CITIZEN (1974), THE BRIDE PRICE (1976), THE SLAVE GIRL (1977, winner of the New Statesman Jock Campbell Award), and THE JOYS OF MOTHERHOOD (1979). Much of her fiction focused on sexual politics and racial prejudice, and was based on her own experiences as both a single parent and a black woman living in Britain. Her television play, A Kind of Marriage, was first screened by the BBC in 1976. She ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company with her son and was a member of the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on Race.