Book Review: Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen

Tabitha Walker is navigating the challenges of her pregnancy, relationship, and self-identity. Her initial plan of being a “single mother by choice” doesn’t go the way she wants when she discovers some new information concerning her pregnancy. Amidst all this Tabitha is also grappling with her image as a black woman on television, and the problems that affect only her as the only black person at the station.

I enjoyed the lightness of the book. The story is about the problems a black successful woman faces, professionally and personally, but without being depressing. It reflects reality but does not leave the reader with a desperate need to escape the weight of the unending issues that black people have to deal with. The story also celebrates black women’s resilience and strength through the most trying times, as well as sisterhood, identity and self-love.

It’s a simple story, with some parts that fall a little flat. However, Tabitha is everywhere and her problems are faced by many black women all over the world. The questioning of our image, especially our hair which is a sensitive topic, is an important theme explored in the novel.

The story also explores the way society expects women to follow a particular path when it comes to having children – to get married and have kids. Single parenthood is treated as a crime committed by the mother.

The title is strong and intriguing, maybe more powerful than the actual story. The plot is straightforward, and it’s an easy and quick read.

Review: ‘The Joys of Motherhood’ by Buchi Emecheta

Nnu Ego leaves her village to be with her new husband Nnaife in Lagos, after she failed to conceive with the first one. The tragedy of her first child amplifies her need to be a mother, for where she comes from, motherhood is the most honourable badge for a woman to wear. Her prayers are answered when she starts having children, but Lagos is not Ibuza and the more children one has is not quite the blessing she had anticipated.

In this wild beast of a city, having more mouths to feed means sinking deeper into the abyss of poverty. Nnu Ego’s whole life becomes defined by motherhood and wifehood, both incredibly demanding. With the impending war, the peasant life under British rule, and the weight of tradition, Nnu Ego’s circumstances don’t seem to have a chance at improving.

The Joys of Motherhood is both exquisite and devastating. I recently read Second-Class Citizen, also by Emecheta and so far, she and Mariama Bâ are the only authors who have truly impressed me with their clear depiction of motherhood and marriage, and the traditions and difficulties tethered to them. Nnu Ego is the daughter of an important person, yet there are things that are expected of her behaviour as a woman, wife and mother, that influence her decisions to stay and push through deprivation in its many forms.

The story doesn’t focus solely on the struggles of women, but with the state of the country we also get to see how men who tradition upholds as superior, become emasculated by oppression, and end up doing everything to reclaim their manhood at home. From beating their wives to taking more wives even when pockets don’t allow it. This then creates even more unfavourable conditions for women.

The value of girls is also one of the important subjects in the book and shows how considering boys more important than girls pours into different aspects of life, such as education, parenting, work, and marriage. Emecheta also shows us the loss of self, the individual, when becoming a mother and a wife.

This novel is a compelling piece of literary art, not only is it a voice for women in Nnu Ego’s time, but it does so for many Nnu Egos of today.

Revealing Racist, Misogynistic and Xenophobic Oppression in Buchi Emecheta’s ‘Second-Class Citizen’

“Father does not approve of women going to the UK. But you see, you will pay for me…”


From when she was a young girl, Adah’s dream was always to leave Lagos for the greener pastures of the United Kingdom. The decisions she’s made throughout her life have been in concert with this dream, and some of these decisions intensely difficult.

When she arrives in London, her hopes for the life she had always imagined are shattered. She meets the reality of what it means to be black in a white world, a black immigrant, and a woman at that. The husband she had known back in Nigeria has been replaced by a stranger. Adah must navigate through all these difficulties; the increasing number of children and raising them, providing for the family, and the deterioration in her marriage.

Although Adah finally get a good job in Nigeria, migrating to Europe was always a fantasy painted by the stories of those who had gone to pursue opportunities there. Despite being financially independent and being the provider for her family, her wants and needs to go to the land of her dreams must take a back seat to give priority to her husband’s plans.

The tyrannical nature of her marriage is a major theme, worsening at every turn. Parenthood and its roles based on gender is another interesting topic. The arrangement of duties is appallingly lopsided, that even though she provides for the household, almost all duties regarding the children are mainly hers. Emecheta pulls us towards the extent of male privilege and domination, and the normalcy they’re afforded.   

Second-Class Citizen is a splendid piece of feminist literature. Each character, especially the protagonist, is so well-developed that their contribution to the story brings out the intended piece of the plot to the stage. Each character understood the assignment.

The title itself is appropriate for the story; it encapsulates the crucial thread that runs through the whole novel. It’s a realistic novel, reflecting society at that time and also relevant to the present.

Through all the adversities our main character faces, there is much to admire about her. Read about these qualities in the previous character-focus post.