A pioneer among contemporary African authors, Flora Nwapa is the first Nigerian woman to publish a novel, Efuru (1966). This landmark book explores a subject that is quite important in Nwapa's writing, although very unusual in African literature as a whole - the unconventional African woman. Nwapa's heroines are generally independent-minded women who often flout traditional customs. In Efuru, the protagonist agrees to marry without waiting for the customary premarital investigations of the groom's family background and the payment of the bride price - two extremely important traditions in Igbo culture. Marital compatibility, a secondary theme in Efuru, is the main theme of Nwapa's second novel, Idu (1970). By skillfully using traditional Igbo dialogue, she gives dimension and credibility to her fundamentally stereotypical folk characters. Simultaneously, she sensitizes her readers to the importance of love and mutual understanding in traditional African society by depicting suffering and hardworking wives who bear the brunt of family responsibilities and tragically grow apart from their truant and irresponsible husbands. Born in 1931 at Oguta (Ugwuta), the setting of her works, Nwapa was educated at the Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls High School, near Port Harcourt, and at the University College, Ibadan, after which she worked as an education officer. After the Nigerian civil war, she served as a commissioner for education in the government of East Central Nigeria. She then retired to a publishing business, Tana Press, which specializes in publishing children's literature and to which she has contributed numerous titles. Her post-civil war titles include works set during and after the Nigerian civil war, notably This Is Lagos and Other Stories (1971) and Wives at War and Other Stories (1975). She continues to appear regularly at African literature and African women's meetings and, during the 1991-92 academic year she accepted an appointment as visiting professor of African literature at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.