Continuing on with graphic novels, today I’m suggesting the Aya de Yopougon series (Aya Yop City in English). These graphic novels are colorful and well illustrated. The best thing about them is that they are about people in the Ivory Coast who live in the city and are living their lives. The series contains 6 books and is full of drama and humor. Marguerite Abouet, the author, has based these graphic novels on some personal experiences living in the Abidjan where she’s from and that’s what makes them so authentic.
It has been turned into a movie which you can watch below, although I wasn’t able to find it in English. Even though it’s in French you can get a sense of the liveliness of the characters and story. I recommend Aya to readers who like to read stories set in Africa and enjoy reading graphic novels with light themes.
“Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too–an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa–seems fueled by something wondrous. Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business.” (Aya – Aya #1, back cover)
Aya (Aya #1) – Marguerite Abouet, Clément Oubrerie (artist)
I happened upon these graphic novels while waiting in line to pay for my daughter’s books for school. I was enticed by the big orange band stretched across this big, beautiful graphic novel advertising the movie release. Yes the movie release was apparently the 17th of July and it slipped right passed me. I don’t remember hearing one word about it nor did I see that it was playing in my local movie theatre, which is notorious for sometimes not showing movies that are being shown everywhere else. The artwork and a story of a young woman from the Ivory Coast seemed to be the perfect end to
my summer reading. I read my big orange book in a couple of hours and then went to my local comic shop to procure the rest. It was there that I realized I was in possession of books 1 and 2 that had been combined in the movie version. I quickly purchased book 3 and now can’t wait to get my hands on books 4, 5, and 6.
Aya is of course the main character and the story centers around her neighbourhood in Yopougon and around her family and friends. I’m reading it in French and love the way it’s written. There are all the expressions and customs wrapped up in these stories. The main themes in these books are family and community, advancement of women in African society, and infidelity and dishonesty. The stories are touching, funny, and a real critic of African society. I can smell the spices and feel the warmth of Africa in theses books. At times I can’t help laughing out loud or shaking my head at what characters say. Another interesting aspect of these graphic novels are the last few pages. There are recipes and little tidbits about African culture, along with a mini glossary of some of the African expressions and words used in the story.
Aya is intelligent and helpful to her friends and family, especially when they are in trouble. As readers we hope that something good will happen to Aya, but by the end of book 3 I’m no longer sure. I hope I’m wrong about that. So I returned on Saturday to get books 4, 5, and 6 and unfortunately I had to order them. Ahhhh! The suspense continues…..Lucky for me I won’t have to wait too long. I should be able to have them on Thursday. If you’re looking for a graphic novel that isn’t about superheroes or typical comics, you should give Aya de Yopougon a try. It’s sure to suck you in. So what’s the name of the last graphic novel you’ve read? Why do you like or dislike reading graphic novels?
Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971. She is a writer and is best known for her graphic novel series Aya de Yopougon or Aya of Yop City. At 12 years old Abouet and her younger brother moved to Paris with their great-uncle. There she furthered her studies and eventually became a legal assistant. Aya is her first successful graphic novel in collaboration with her husband Clément Oubrerie who illustrated it. This was his first illustrative job in graphic novels. Abouet and Oubrerie won the Angoulême International Comics Festival prize for First Comic Book in 2006. Abouet was inspired to write Aya after reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. She wanted to depict Africa in all of its realism, not just in the common themes of poverty and starvation. Abouet has published another series called Akissi for younger children. Akissi is based on Marguerite Abouet’s childhood memories living in Abidjan. There are four books in the series. It was apparently translated into British English with Flying Eye Books publishing company. The first book of the series is called Feline Invasion or Attaque de Chats in French. The link below shows a clip of the animated film in French of Aya. Sorry that I couldn’t find it in English, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing what it’s like all the same.