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by Buchi Emecheta

Although her characters speak in authentic patois and authoritatively convey the grim travails of a dysfunctional emigre family in England, Emecheta's novel is sapped by polemic and an overkill of disaster. When her mother joins her father in London, Gwendolen is left behind in Jamaica, where she is sexually abused by a male friend of her grandmother; disclosure of her crime only brings the child resentment and ridicule. Eventually, Gwendolen's parents send for her, and she arrives in the ``Moder Kontry'' to care for her younger siblings and receive an education. But school is a hardship: ``What nobody realized was the price her dignity as a person was paying. Those who made society's laws are still a long way from knowing that Gwendolen's inability to speak or understand one brand of the English language did not automatically condemn her to be an imbecile. But to keep a school like hers running smoothly and with less friction for all concerned, it was easier for her to be regarded as one.'' Further humiliations follow when Gwendolen's father molests her, rages when he learns he is not the first to do so, and eventually impregnates her. A Nigerian native living in England, Emecheta wrote The Joys of Motherhood.

Paperback: 239 pages