Routed Recommends

Here are some of our newsroom’s picks for books, films and series about migration and mobility – and we also made you a playlist with our favourite migration tunes!

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Routed Recommends

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Second-class citizen

Novel by Buchi Emecheta. Heinemann 1994 (first ed. 1974).

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Buchi Emecheta’s semi-autobiographical novel Second-class citizen recounts the story of a young Nigerian woman who convinces her husband to move to the United Kingdom. He leaves first to pursue his law studies while she stays behind in Nigeria, where she earns a decent living as the American consulate’s library clerk. She soon manages to convince her in-laws that she and the children should follow her husband. When she arrives, she believes that her longstanding wish to make a life in the UK has finally come true. However, her husband’s struggles with finding his place in this new society soon become an inescapable burden to her. Even though she manages to find work in a local library, she is increasingly isolated and caught up in a feeling of unbelonging. She feels distant from British citizens but also from the Nigerian diaspora. 

 

Emecheta succeeds in striking a balance between criticising the husband’s sexist and abusive behaviour and generating some empathy for a man who is lost between the racism he encounters and the expectations of his fellow Nigerians towards his masculinity. In a wider sense, the author portrays the protagonist’s existence as caught between her traditional role as a Nigerian wife and mother, and that of a second-class citizen in a country where she hoped she could finally be herself. Yet, the story is one of hope as with every setback, this young woman’s will to fight for her own sake and that of her children grows. Buchi Emecheta conveys a candid picture of a woman who has to put up with multiple discriminations, and yet, or maybe because of that, she becomes stronger and ever more resilient.

—Lena Hartz