Based upon my readings of Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood, I will argue the differences between African cultural and family values and those generally practiced and accepted in the United States.


Gender

African males and female roles are much different and diverse than that of their American counterparts. African males are expected to serve a particular function for the family, sometimes lasting their complete lifetime. African males are treated by their society with great regard. This is especially true if he is the "first born." The boys are usually sent to the best schools that the family can afford. The oldest son is given more freedom to do as he pleases. However, after the sons have completed their schooling, they have special responsibilities to their family. The oldest son is required to take up the responsibilities of the family leadership role. He is required to become the main provider and take care of all of the family's physical and social needs. He must provide the family with ample food and shelter and guard against any harm that may come from outsiders. The father can then retire from any job that he may have and rely on his sons' to take care of the!
family.
African females are brought up quite differently. Girls are less regarded from the moment of their birth. There is a certain sense of disappointment from the father that the child is not a boy. Consequently, they receive much less attention. When Nnaife returned home and found that his wife had twin girls, he laughed loudly and said, "Nnu Ego, what are these? Could you not have done better?"


The girls are fed and taken care of in the same ways that the males are, but their family roles are very different. They are not encouraged to learn a trade in school. Many of them do not finish school past the 8th grade. They are taught at a young age to be homemakers and to become very docile. They are also taught that they must learn how to cook and wait on their future husband's hand and foot. They must be there for his every beckoning need. The woman's job is to take care of her husband and family unconditionally. Her needs are secondary. Nnaife once told Nnu Ego that "you have to look after your child. That at least is a woman's job."
American males, like their African counterparts are cherished from the time their gender becomes known. They also are encouraged to excel in school, go on to college if they can, and marry the women of their choice so that they can take care of their children. However, they are not expected to take care of their mother and their fathers after they have become a certain age. If American parents can, they generally want to be independent from their children after the children have become of age. Only in the latter part of their lives when they are in declining health do American parents tend to look to their children for assistance.
American females are treated more like American boys. It is now recognized by most parents, educators, and the American public in general that to do otherwise results in unfairly discriminating against females. However, they are still taught how to cook, clean and assume other domestic responsibilities more than boys. They are still taught by their mothers the traditional roles of "womanhood." The difference is that they are encouraged to learn just as much as the boys, and are given equal opportunities to do so. Consequently, American women are now generally able to compete with men in the work place and provide for their own welfare without having to depend on their fathers or husbands.


Marriage and Motherhood
Once the African woman has come of age, her father is approached by a willing male to ask for her hand in marriage. He must then pay her father an appropriate fee in compensation for the work that the daughter would have otherwise provided to the father during her life. This fee may be paid in money and may also include animals such as goats, cows, or chickens. The compensation paid becomes a symbol of how the rest of her life is likely to be spent--in the service of the African male. This