Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie

book 2 of 3 for the well-seasoned reader challenge
book 3 of 26 for the A to Z 2009 Challenge (city: Yopougon in Ivory Coast)

genre: late young adult graphic novel
rating: 3.5/5

This unique graphic novel takes place in a working class neighborhood in Ivory Coast called Yopougon. The year is 1978 and Ivory Coast is a model of growth and stability. Aya is a girl with dreams, a stable and responsible bystander to the romantic antics of her two best friends, Bintou and Adjoua.

The plot is a bit like a sitcom, with couples getting together or not, cheating on each other, getting in trouble and having problems with their parents. Older teens would find much to relate to and probably appreciate seeing their own problems worked out on a completely different continent among completely different people and with, maybe, very similar consequences.

Despite the very post-adolescence nature of the plot, I think the book as a whole sheds a revealing light on a another side of African life than we usually read about. Wealthy businessmen, working class "peasants" and villagers interact in a society that is constantly changing. You get a great sense of the lilt of the language and the range of relationships between extended families. Traditional ways are meshing with modern desires - cars, especially, are a prized status symbol.

The back of the book has recipes, a how-to guide for dressing and booty-shaking like an African diva, as well as definitions of common terms in the book. All that information is cleverly illustrated and feels more like a letter from a friend than author's notes.

Aya is a portrait of one kind of African life, in all it's diversity and complexity, a fast and humorous book about the ups and downs of love and friendship. Worth trying.


morninglight mama said...

What an interesting looking book- not one that I think I ever would have come across on my own. You continue to open my eyes to new books!

Melissa said...

Fascinating. I wonder if my library has it...

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