Aya is a book about a teen-aged African girl living in the Ivory Coast during the seventies (a relative boom time). It's billed as being a graphic novAya is a book about a teen-aged African girl living in the Ivory Coast during the seventies (a relative boom time). It's billed as being a graphic novel that shows that teens in Africa aren't so dissimilar to those in the U.S. (or teens in general, for that matter) and attempts to break the stereotype of Africa as an impoverished nation where all the kids are starving and/or in the midst of constant warfare.
It focuses on Aya and her two friends, Adjoua and Bintou, as they live their lives in "Yop City", a working-class neighborhood of (at the time) prosperous Abidjan. Aya has aspirations of going to school to become a doctor, while her two friends are more interested in dancing and boys. They secretly hook up with lovers on "reserved" tables in the market square at night (aka the "Thousand Star Hotel") and dream about marrying someone who can set them up with a nice house or even a business (I believe a beauty parlor was high on the list). But all their hijinks (yes, I just used the word "hijinks") don't turn out as planned.
It's almost as much fun seeing them get into trouble as seeing how they then try to get out of it. In fact, it's strangely fun while considering that some of the topics covered definitely border on the melancholy (mainly: needing a man to fulfill your dreams). But this is where Aya comes into play, providing a stark contrast to her partying friends. She doesn't judge them, but her character shows a more modern viewpoint which contrasts against traditional gender roles.
The glossary at the back isn't to be missed, explaining much of the slang used in the book (Tassaba - Ta-Sa-Ba: slang, behind. "Move your tassaba!") as well as how to roll your tassaba in a way that makes men fall at your feet.
The illustrations really bring life to the narrative. The beautiful colors and expressive lines were so seamlessly interwoven with the text that I was surprised to realize that the writer and illustrator weren't one and the same.
An interesting glimpse into one writer's perception of teen life in West Africa in the late 70s....more
This graphic novel focused on Jonathan A. (the main character) and his alcoholism, and how his battle with it affected everything in his life. There wThis graphic novel focused on Jonathan A. (the main character) and his alcoholism, and how his battle with it affected everything in his life. There were so many wonderful, poignant, tragic and even funny details... I loved his devotion to his best friend, even when said friend ditched him for no apparent reason. I loved it when he referred to his ex-girlfriend by the city she happened to be living in at the time and came to refer to himself as "her bitch" because he couldn't let her go. I loved how he told part of his story while haphazardly self-buried in the sand trying to elude the police. I loved it when Monica Lewinsky said that the kielbasa looked delicious, causing Jonathan to astrally project to the ceiling out of sympathetic embarrassment for her...
It's hard to "love" some of the more tragic circumstances of the book, but while I can't identify 100% with the realities of alcoholism, I think everyone can identify with the feelings of inadequacy and want expressed in this book. The feeling of almost achieving something, and then losing it again. Hopefulness, and hopelessness, and then hopefulness again.
I was actually confused as to whether this book was semi-autobiographical. The main character is named Jonathan A., after all (the author is Jonathan Ames). But after doing a little research: it seems like it isn't. Just a really well-told tale that is true for different people in different ways....more