I reviewed the first in this graphic novel series back in 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I knew that there were others in the series, but for some reason I had gotten the idea that only the first had been translated into English. I was so surprised when I found a copy of this one in Canty’s graphic novel section and I bought it immediately.
“Aya of Yop City” is a bandes dessinées by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie picks up almost immediately where the last one left off. It’s the 1970s in the unprecedented prosperous time of the African nation of the Ivory Coast. While Aya strives to become a doctor, she is roped into helping her friends deal with their dramas. Adjoua has had a baby and the identity of the father isn’t going to be a secret for long, while Bintou has been swept of her feet by a stranger from France who perhaps isn’t quite what he seems.
These graphic novels really are an absolute joy to read. A perfect blend of soapy drama, humour and culture, this series is as entertaining as it is educational. I liked the first one, but I felt like the story consolidated even more in this one. I remember I had some reservations about the artwork in the first one, but even that too has grown on me now. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the afterword with some little cultural tidbits about life in the Ivory Coast and I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to a glossary, instructions on how to carry your baby on your back in a pagne and how babies and new mothers are welcomed back into the community after the birth was a new recipe for me to try. I actually outsourced the cooking on this one, and my partner made for me the chicken kedjenou which he liked so much he’s asked for it to be put on our rotating menu.
A delightful series that should be on the list for any lover of graphic novels, or anyone who wants to learn more about a different culture.
I love graphic novels, and this one caught my eye in Canty’s a couple of months ago. I’d never heard of any African graphic novels, and, always interested in reading diversely, I was intrigued.
“Aya”, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, was translated from its original French and is set in the Ivory Coast in the late 1970s. This African nation was undergoing a period of exceptional prosperity following independence in stark contrast to many of the other countries in the region. “Aya” is about the eponymous protagonist and her friends living in “Yop City” as the economic boom draws to an end. Aya is a level-headed and ambitious teenager who is often called on to help her more foolhardy friends who get themselves into all kinds of mischief when it comes to boys.
This book was probably one of my better finds this year. It was such a fabulous, humorous and heartfelt snapshot into a time and a culture that I otherwise wouldn’t have known anything about. “Aya” is filled with cultural insights and explanations and all of the colourful cast of characters burst off the page around the more reserved and sensible Aya herself. My absolute favourite part of the book is the gorgeous touch of adding pages at the end sharing instructions on how to engage with pieces of Ivory Coast culture including wearing a pagne, sashaying while you walk and traditional recipes.
I adore trying new recipes, so I decided to have a go at the Peanut Sauce recipe – a sort of beef stew with peanut butter and tomatoes. The critics gave it rave reviews, including “not too bad” and “pretty edible”, but I thought it was pretty good!
I think the only thing that perhaps lets this down is that the art is sometimes a little underwhelming. It’s almost too cartoony for my taste, I think, and maybe doesn’t quite capture the spirit and nuance that the author clearly inlaid in the story.
“Aya” is really something you don’t see every day. I learned so much reading this book and engaging with the recipes at the back, and I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for the other installments in the series.