Reading Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations

Reading Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations

Reading Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations

Reading Buchi Emecheta: Cross-Cultural Conversations


In this first full-length study of Emecheta's fiction, Fishburn highlights the difficulties inherent in reading across cultures. She challenges the notion that all we need to understand African texts is a willingness to be open to them, arguing that too many of the cultural and critical preconceptions we bring to these texts interfere with our ability to understand them. Directly responding to Western feminist criticism written about Emecheta, this study argues that Emecheta herself is not a feminist in the Western sense and that her novels should not be construed as reflecting this political interest. In close readings of eight of her best known works, this study reveals a complex narrative voice which is far more supportive of Emecheta's own African culture and its tradition than has been recognized previously.


A person skilled in the "art" of questioning is a person who can prevent questions from being suppressed by the dominant opinion.

Hans-Georg Gadamer Truth and Method (1989, 367)

This book is, broadly speaking, an attempt to theorize how Westerners might-- more responsibly--read African literature. More specifically, it is my rebuttal to much of the (white) Western feminist criticism that has been generated on Buchi Emecheta and her fiction. As such, it also presumes to enter the current conversation that is focused more generally on issues of cross-cultural understanding.

Even so, my project does not pretend to participate in the related, but ultimately different, ongoing intellectual project of theorizing an African approach to African literature (see, for example, Chinweizu et al. 1983, Bjornson 1990, and A. Williams 1991). Nor does it participate in the related intellectual project of theorizing and documenting the cultural/linguistic continuities between Africans and African Americans (see, for example, Herskovits 1990, Mintz and Price 1992, Levine 1977, Asante 1987, J. Holloway 1990, Mudimbe 1990, K. Holloway 1992). I would hope, however, that participants in these two sister projects would find my ideas not entirely incompatible with, or always irrelevant to, their own--especially as I am trying to theorize my own cultural and intellectual relationship to Africa and, in the process, more than once have found myself raising objections to Western thought and criticism that will be familiar to readers of Molefi Kete Asante.

By entering the conversation as I do here, I hope to raise questions about the nature of understanding across cultures, questions that feminist scholars of . . .

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