I came across Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen as I searched for a book to use for my dissertation. I do not regret that choice, for the book’s observations on racism, discrimination, sexism, marriage and motherhood, gives insight into the horrible experiences of Black immigrants, particularly women, during the 1960s. The account of Adah’s life, a Nigerian woman, reaches out and touches the core of those that faced alienation and and racial hardship in a place away from home. Using one woman’s story, I think Emecheta creates an invisible and transnational bond between Black women who suffer because of their gender and skin colour.
Emecheta has some powerful things to say about racism and the act of loving oneself. Through the civil rights movement in the US, Adah learns what it means to be Black, realising that ‘black is beautiful’. She changes herself from the inside out and refuses to see herself as inferior to her white counterparts.
Everything terrible that you could possibly think of is thrown at Adah: physical and verbal abuse, discrimination, sexism, and poverty. But she has so much courage and, in spite of the thorns that dig into her flesh,she manages to raise her children, work and write a novel. At the end of the novel Adah leaves her husband and begins to enter a new life that will possibly be more promising than the last.
This novel is poignant, reminiscent and beautifully written, and Adah comes across as an honest character constructed with imperfections and an adamant attitude.