"That's what I wanted to show in Aya: an Africa without the . . . war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on." —Marguerite Abouet

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 ...

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"That's what I wanted to show in Aya: an Africa without the . . . war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on." —Marguerite Abouet

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 tells the story of its nineteen-year-old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya, her easygoing friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It's a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City. An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful, and resilient—Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Clément Oubrerie's warm colors and energetic, playful lines connect expressively with Marguerite Abouet's vibrant writing.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
Nineteen-year-old Aya's life is filled with ordinary concerns. Her friends Bintou and Adjoua chase boys and sneak out at night to hook up in the market square. Aya and her friends go dancing, worry about what to wear, and argue with their parents. These universal themes of teenage existence are just a small part of Aya's life on the Ivory Coast of Africa in 1978. Aya stands out in Yopougon, the working class neighborhood in Abidjan where her family lives. Aya's highest priority is not to find an affluent husband, as it is for Bintou and Adjoua, but to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. Her father scoffs at her ambition; after all, he says, university is not for women. Level-headed and strong-minded, Aya is consistently the calm in the center of the drama that surrounds her. Although much of the action is commonplace or comic fare, deeper topics are always just in the background. Politics and class issues often rear their heads, most notably when an unexpected pregnancy occurs. Aya sees her friends and family growing more covetous of material wealth, but she never wavers from her steadfast path of determination. Abouet successfully crafts a whole cast of noteworthy characters, but none is more compelling than Aya herself. Her intelligence, wit, and candor make her someone whom readers will readily embrace. Oubrerie's lively and whimsical artwork meshes perfectly with the text. Additional material includes a preface explaining the Ivory Coast's history, a glossary, recipes, and more.
KLIATT - George Galuschak
Aya is set in the 1970s in the Ivory Coast of Africa and features the antics of three girls: Aya, Adjoua and Bintou. Aya wants to be a doctor; her friends want to dance, flirt with boys and have a good time. Adjoua and Bintou party with Moussa, a twit with big ears and a silly haircut. Soon afterwards Bintou gets grounded for going dancing with her father's best friend, a man twice her age; they are caught red-handed by Bintou's father, who is at the same disco. Adjoua has her own problems: she gets pregnant, declares Moussa to be the father, and two weeks later we see their shotgun wedding, which features skunked beer, no cutlery and a bride and groom who are both sporting black eyes. Despite its light-hearted exterior, I found Aya to be rather sad. The world depicted in this graphic novel is a man's world; the only option the women have is to marry well. Afterwards, they are expected to stay at home and watch their husbands openly cheat on them. Moussa is not the father of Adjoua's baby, but she says that he is because his father is wealthy and he's considered a great catch. Aya—an intelligent woman who applies herself—is clearly an outsider here; she acts mainly as an observer. Aya contains adult situations and people talking about sex (no sex is shown, though there's lots of it) and is recommended for graphic novel collections that cater to high school students.
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up
Studious Aya and her flighty party-girl friends, Adjoua and Bintou, live in suburban Ivory Coast in 1978. Aya hopes to continue her studies and become a doctor, while her father, a manager at a local brewery, would rather see her marry well. Unfortunately, the mate he has in mind for her, the son of his boss, is an even bigger partier than Bintou and Adjoua—as all will soon find out. Aya is actually more observer than participant—most of the action revolves around the peripheral characters—although she is often an instigator. This realistic story immerses readers in the life of an Ivorian teen of the period. Yet for those familiar with the civil unrest occurring in this part of Africa during the ensuing years, the simplicity of life depicted can't help but be extra poignant; the subplot of one teen's unplanned pregnancy has universal elements. Oubrerie's images are comic and light, somewhat reminiscent of Joann Sfar's, who edited this collection when it was first published in France. There is also some fun back matter, including a glossary, how to wrap a pagne (skirt cloth), and a few recipes. This pleasing volume will make a good addition to graphic-novel collections.
—Jamie WatsonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A young woman navigates shallow men, self-destructive friends and the newly erected class ladder in the prosperous city of Abidjan. The West African nation of the Ivory Coast won its independence from France in 1960, and thanks to agricultural development, it enjoyed a flourishing economy until the early '80s. This graphic novel by Abouet, an Ivory Coast native, and French artist Oubrerie, is set in 1978, as Aya, the 19-year-old heroine, becomes increasingly aware of how money is reshaping her family and friendships. Her father, a manager for a local beer company, takes pride in his car, TV set and other trappings of a steady paycheck; her friends Bintou and Adjoua are obsessed with landing a wealthy husband, and they have enough free time to pursue suitors at the disco; Aya, for her part, aspires to attend college and become a scientist. This is mainly a breezy, colorful snapshot of middle-class Ivory Coast life at the height of the country's boom years, in a tone that's underscored by Oubrerie's simple, loose and playful lines. And Abouet has imagined an appealing array of characters notable for their foibles, especially the imposing Mister Sissoko, the head of the beer company. (The TV show Dallas is visitors' first reference point when entering his palatial estate, speaking of how closely the country took its cultural cues from the U.S.) A serious story is embedded in all this, though: Bintou and Adjoua both battle for the attentions of Sissoko's son, Moussa, and when Adjoua becomes pregnant, the ensuing pages spark some interesting observations about the country's class distinctions and the urge to save face. Given the intelligence that Abouet brings to the story, it's unfortunatethat Aya ends so abruptly, but it's not a fatal flaw. The appendix, with a glossary, recipes and notes on native clothing, is a nice touch. A smart and sweetly comic glimpse of a time and place in Africa that get little attention in the West.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780224081849
  • Publisher: Cape, Jonathan Limited
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Sales rank: 440,357

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