Must Own, Must Read: The Aya Series by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

by - 07:02

There are some authors whose works I really must own and must read. One of them is the Aya series written by  Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément OubrerieThe original six were published by Gallimard between 2005 and 2010,  with English versions published by Drawn & Quarterly between 2007 and 2013. D&Q published the first three volumes, and then a reworked edition with the first three volumes in one (Life in Yop City) and another with the last three volumes (Love in Yop City). Aya tells the story of its 19-year old heroine, the studious and clear-sightd Aya, her easy-going friends Adjoua and Bintou and their meddling neighbours and relatives. In an interview on Bookslut, Marguerite says Aya is:
'autobiographical in the way that it's the Ivory Coast I know. The characters are based on my neighours. They had complicated stories and affairs with men. So the characters and places are things I know in real life. The story itself is fiction'. 
On the series, Marguerite Abouet  also explains:
'That's what I wanted to show in Aya: as Africa without the ... war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on'.
Aya won the 2006 award for Best First Album at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. It also won the Children's Africana Book Award in 2008 and the Glyph Award (in 2008 for Rising Star Award, 2010 for Best Female Character and in both years for best Reprint Publication) and was adapted into an animated film.

Aya (2007)

Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya's house every evening to watch the country's first TV ad campaign promote 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 of Yop City (2008)

This continuation of the dynamic story by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie returns to Africa's Ivory Coast in the late 1970s, where life in Yop City is as dramatic as ever. Oubrerie's artwork synchronizes perfectly to Abouet's funny and lighthearted writing, which together create a spirited atmosphere and scenarios that, however unique to the bygone setting, remain entirely contemporary in their effect.

The original cast of characters is back in full force, with a case of questionable paternity fanning the flames of activity in the community. The new mother Adjoua has her friends to help with the baby, perhaps employing Aya a bit too frequently, while a new romance leaves Bintou with little time for her friends, let alone their responsibilities. The young women aren't the only residents of Yopougon involved in the excitement, however; Aya's father is caught in the midst of his own trysts and his employer's declining Solibra beer sales, and Adjoua's brother finds his share of the city's nightlife.

Aya: The Secrets Come Out (2009)

Secrets and desires cast long shadows in the third volume of Abouet and Oubrerie's warmly acclaimed series about life in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s. It's a world of shifting values, where issues like arranged marriage and gay love have Aya and her friends yearning to break out of the confines of their community, while the ties of friendship and support draw them back into this familiarity. 

Aya: Life in Yop City (2012) Book One

This reworked edition offers readers the chance to immerse themselves in the lively world of Aya and her friends, bringing together the first three volumes of the series in Book One. 

Aya: Love in Yop City (2013) Book Two

Aya: Love in Yop City comprises the final three chapters of the Aya story, episodes never before seen in English. While the stories found in Aya: Love in Yop City maintain their familiar tone, quick pace, and joyfulness, we see Aya and her friends beginning to make serious decisions about their future. When a professor tries to take advantage of Aya, her plans to become a doctor are seriously shaken, and she vows to take revenge on the lecherous man. With a little help from the tight-knit community of Yopougon, Aya comes through these trials stronger than ever.

This second volume of the complete Aya includes unique appendices, recipes, guides to understanding Ivorian slang, street sketches, and concluding remarks from Marguerite Abouet explaining history and social milieu.

Doesn't it sound fascinating!!!!! Luckily I did get a copy over the holidays while I was in Canada, but it was Volume 3 - so it is all by itself on my shelf waiting for the other volumes to come find it. They will come soon. Until then, here is a look inside Aya:

And here's the poster for the film:

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