Wednesday, June 24, 2009

aya de yopougon

The best stories have the power to transport us to places we’ll never see in our lifetimes, and do that in such a way that we feel immediately engrossed in these new worlds. From that standpoint, graphic novels tend to be so fantastic that though it’s an awe-inspiring world, it’s not one in which we feel at home (I would argue this is true of many of the greats, including Watchmen and From Hell). However, in the case of many good autobiographical graphic novels I’ve read, it’s easy to slip into those worlds. Aya de Yopougon reminds me of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (well, the episodes I saw on TV) mixed with a little non-tragic Tess of the D’Urbervilles (no, really!). The smart and plucky heroine Aya, with her aspirations to become a doctor in 1970s Abidjan, is a nice foil for her harmless, boy-chasing friends Bintou and Adjoua. The Francophone nature of Côte d’Ivoire makes the book of special interest to me, though I shamefully confess I don’t know that much about French-speaking Africa (we read some Algerian writers and I knew someone who went on exchange many times to French-speaking Africa). My favorite section is the Ivorian Bonus, with tips on how to wrap a pagne, how to shake your tassaba, and recipes! Clément Oubrerie’s simple drawings are full of character, and Marguerite Abouet’s text is engaging and genuine. The humor strikes me as very similar to Mma Ramotse’s in N1LDA, though some of the sweaty dance sequences remind me of a slightly less sinister Moses Jones. I’d recommend it (and maybe I’ll even buy Jamie the sequel).

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