Aya: Love in Yop City


Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

Drawn and Quarterly




384 Pages


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Aya: Love in Yop City comprises the final three chapters of the Aya story, episodes never before seen in English. Aya is a lighthearted story about life in the Ivory Coast during the 1970s, a particularly thriving and wealthy time in the country's history.

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 though, 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. Inspired by Abouet's childhood, the series has received praise for offering relief from the disaster-struck focus of most stories set in Africa. Aya is the winner of the Best First Album Award at the Angoulême International Comics Festival; was nominated for the YALSA's Great Graphic Novels list; and was included on "best of" lists from The Washington Post, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.


Praise for Aya: Love in Yop City

"As wise and compassionate as its titular protagonist, the book is a charming cultural ambassador from Ivory Coast."—Pop Matters

"Loosely based on Abouet's late-1970s youth in Africa's Ivory Coast, the Aya series has garnered numerous commendations and been tagged as great for teens by YALSA. Aya: Life in Yop City reprints the three Aya installments already published in English. This second of the two omnibus volumes includes the final three episodes not previously translated. Now Aya and her friends are turning more seriously toward their futures, and Aya must deal with a lecherous professor. An appendix dishes out recipes, Ivorian slang, history and social background, and other extras valuable for the classroom as well as fun for casual readers."—Martha Cornog, Library Journal


"Oubrerie's style animates both the broadly funny and painfully grave moments in Abouet's rhythmic slice-of-life storytelling."—The Washington Post

"Marguerite Abouet's comic tells of a lost age, a time in the late 1970s when the Ivory Coast was basking in the glow of an economic boom, when disco seeped from the open air clubs in Abidjan and teenage girls such as Aya, Adjoua and Bintou were able to enjoy one last flirtatious summer before adulthood . . . Abouet's is a gentle, nostalgic account."—Craig Taylor, The Guardian (UK)

"Abouet . . . has attempted to create something very brave in Aya—an intimate portrait of the African world that exists outside the glare of the media spotlight." —The Boston Globe

"Aya is Drawn and Quarterly's latest cross-cultural gift, a charming and unexpectedly cheery coming-of-age story."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"[Aya] demystifies African life with a warm and energetic new voice. "—New Jersey Record

"Abouet and Oubrerie act as convincing tour guides, presenting us with a lush, funny and humane Africa, one that's rarely depicted." —Contra Costa Times

"[Aya] wittily delves into both the political and the pop during an enchanted era when anything seemed possible."—Vibe Vixen

"A cliché-busting glimpse into life in modern Africa." —Body + Soul

"[The] characters and scenarios in Abouet's story present a day-to-day view of West Africa barely seen outside of newspaper blurbs summarizing the country's political strife."—Venus

"Aya is an irresistible comedy, a couple of love stories and a tale for becoming African. It's essential reading." —Joann Sfar, cartoonist of The Rabbi's Cat

"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 . . . 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."—KLIATT

"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 . . . 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."—Kirkus Reviews

"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, Booklist (starred review)

"This fun and charming story of a bygone era recounts a few days in the life of 19-year-old Aya and her friends Adjoua and Bintou. Set in the working-class neighborhood of 1978 Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, we see the girls deal with friends, family, school, love, dating, dancing, and an unexpected pregnancy. Based on Abouet's remembrance of her childhood in Abidjan (she left for France when she was 12), the story, along with French illustrator Oubrerie's artwork, brings to life an Ivory Coast not seen before—a place overflowing with vibrant, rich textiles, new words, music, food, and lively characters filled with humor, love, and the hope for a better life. A wonderful glossary, illustrations on tying a pagne (a brightly colored cloth used mainly for skirts), and recipes are also included. Mature themes and issues will appeal to adult audiences, but the unique Ivory Coast setting and the female central characters make this book ideal for harder-to-please older teenage girls (ages 15+). Highly recommended."—Melissa Aho, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota, Library Journal (starred review)

"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 Watson, Harford County Public Library, Maryland, School Library Journal

"Abouet could have just wanted to tell a sweet, simple story of the Ivory Coast of her childhood as a counterpoint to the grim tide of catastrophic news, which is all most Westerners know of Africa. But in Aya, Abouet, along with Parisian artist Oubrerie, does quite a bit more than that, spinning a multifaceted romantic comedy that would satisfy even without any political agenda behind it . . .Aya follows the travails of some teenage girls in the peaceful Abidjan working-class neighborhood of Yopougon (which they call 'Yop City, like something out of an American movie'), as they strive for love and the right boyfriend. Yop City, as detailed in Oubrerie's fluid and cartoonish black and white drawings, is a mellow place where disco rules the night and practically the worst thing these girls have to worry about is the disapproval of their parents—or in the case of the quiet title character, criticism from those who wish she were more boy-crazed and less focused on a career. It's . . . memorable in mood, capturing the country's brief flicker of postcolonial peaceful prosperity before descending into the modern maelstrom of corruption and violence we know only too well."—Publishers Weekly


"The witty, Jane Austenesque soap opera of Aya's community continues in this sequel to the award-winning Aya, and Ivory Coast party girls Adjoua and Bintou carry on with their adventures. The pregnant Adjoua had married rich slacker Moussa as the 'father,' but when the fat, wide-faced baby arrives, his paternity appears to be of farther-flung origin. On her part, Bintou sets her cap for a big spender from Paris—or so it appears. Meanwhile, Aya's father, Ignace, commutes to a faraway job, where he becomes entangled in a second life that unravels suddenly when sales of his company's beer take a nosedive. Over it all, Aya studies, babysits, observes, and tries her hand at matchmaking for Bintou's cousin Hervé. Throughout, the mating dance runs underneath, and now consequences and perfidies turn the plot more serious. With a cliff-hanger ending, this story seems to indicate at least a third volume, and we can certainly hope! As in Aya, the slice-of-life story told here paints with bittersweet humor a picture of women's lives when beauty contest winners can hope for a prize of cooking oil. Charming color art, a glossary, and a few South African cultural tidbits add extra appeal. For ages 16+."—Martha Cornog, Library Journal

"Picking up where Aya left off, Yop City continues the adventures of Aya, her family, and friends in prewar Ivory Coast . . . As usual, all the action revolves around the periphery of Aya's life, but this time the drama hits closer to home at the book's end. Readers who haven't read the first volume will have a tough time following the action, as it picks up threads introduced there with little explanation. As in Aya, back matter includes more Ivorian detail such as recipes, childbirth customs, and a glossary. Oubrerie's illustrations are even more colorful than in the original and match well with the light, humorous tone of the text. An interview with the author is included. This continues to be a pleasant addition to both world literature and graphic-novel collections in its depiction of Africa as a more modern urbane place than much of the literature we see about the continent."—Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, Maryland, School Library Journal


"This installment of Aya, by Marguerite Abouet, picks up where the last one left off . . . Other than [two] big secrets, this book mostly focuses on the exploits of various town peoples. It also features the Miss Yopugon pageant. This pageant brings all of the townsfolk together in short order, and serves as the unifying event of this volume of Aya's life. If all of this sounds very soap operaish, that's because it is! This is one of the narrative's great attractions. Clément Oubrerie's art is another selling point. He excels in using character body language and posture to display the subtext of a scene. This combined with bright colors gives each character a distinct and recognizable personality . . . As before, this volume of Aya's story is human centric and focuses primarily on young people. The series is set in the Ivory Coast in 1980; this is what sets it apart from most other 'real life' type stories told in comic form. It deftly handles serious and humorous situations without veering into the maudlin. This makes it a worthy purchase for both Academic and public libraries. High school libraries should also consider it."—Brazos, No Flying, No Tights

"The Aya books shine a light on a full-bodied African experience that's rarely seen. Oubrerie's art style creates an expressive stage for the broad range of droll and dramatic moments in Abouet's rhythmic and slice-of-life script."—Evan Narcisse, Time Out New York

"Further machinations and intrigues come to light in this third installment of the irresistible Aya series about small-town life in the Côte d'Ivoire. With much of the story focusing on a Miss Yop City beauty pageant, the level-headed Aya helps family and friends with their problems while allowing them to find their own way. Aya's setting and detail conjure the appeal of a different place and time, whereas the characters resonate in the universality of their hopes. The series has won a number of awards."—Martha Cornog, Library Journal

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  • Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

  • The writer Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan in 1971 and now lives outside of Paris.

    The artist Clément Oubrerie was born in Paris in 1966 and has illustrated more than forty children's books.