"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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Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan in 1971 and now lives outside Paris. Clement Oubrerie was born in Paris in 1966 and has illustrated more than forty children's books.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Intelligent, practical, and kind older teen Aya has best girl friends besotted by romance and sex. She also seems to know a plethora of guys who are either intoxicated with their own studliness or a bit dim. Set in late 1970s Ivory Coast, this accessible, engaging story features a relatively simple plotline--smart girl frustrated by less-forward-thinking friends and family--and delightfully thorough characterizations that resound with emotional universality as they manifest the particulars of a time and a place American readers otherwise rarely glimpse. In perfect keeping with the narrator's youthful perspective, the young people's parents are visually exaggerated to go with stunted personalities. The locale is evoked handsomely in scenes set in Aya's working-class neighborhood, in her father's boss' chic mansion with its multiple living rooms, and during luminous nights some of the youngsters spend at the Thousand Star Hotel--that is, the nocturnally deserted market square. References to the period's worldwide hit TV show, Dallas; the aural backdrop of French pop music; and the cast's Ivorian traditional garments given a disco-twist vivify the rich cultural mixture of Western and newly independent African elements that Aya depicts. Abouet's storytelling is straightforward but gently nuanced, while Oubrerie's cartooning mixes sepia with bright hues that seem to reflect the ambient sunlight. Francisca Goldsmith
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