Written by: Marguerite Abouet, Illustrated by Clement Oubrerie
Translated by Helge Dasher
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Aya Life In Yop City is the story of 19-year-old Aya, who’s very dedicated to her studies and committed to her goals. It’s 1978 in Abidjan, a suburb of the Ivory Coast and Aya is your typical 19-year old who’s really focused on her studies, friends, and family. Aya spends a lot of her time with her best friends and adventure partners, Adjoua and Bintou. All three friends have different interests. While Aya is committed to her career and being independent, Adjoua and Bintou want to pursue their future by finding a husband and raising a family. There are many moving parts of this story to unpack, but it is refreshing to see a part of Africa that is not often portrayed in books or media. The liveliness of The Ivory Coast, its people, food, culture, warm colors is well portrayed in this story.
This vibrancy and the warm colors of the illustrations merge well with the energetic, and at times, funny writing that bring the story to life. Themes explored in AYA Life In Yop City include friendships, unplanned pregnancies, family, social issues, feminism, class, and gender roles.
Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 1971. At the age of twelve, she was sent with her older brother to study in France under the care of a great uncle. She currently lives in Romainville, a suburb of Paris, with her husband, illustrator Clément Oubrerie (who illustrates her graphic novels), and their young son. She left her job as a legal assistant to concentrate on writing full-time, including her two follow-up graphic novels to Aya: Aya of Yop City, and Aya: The Secrets Come Out.
Clément Oubrerie was born in Paris in 1966. He first studied the fine arts in Grenoble before leaving for the United States, where he spent two years and published his first children’s books. Back in France, his creative streak continued, with his illustrating dozens of books over the ensuing years, including the award-winning Les Mille mots de l’info with publisher Gallimard. His transition toward comics and graphic novels came gradually, with Oubrerie making his mark in 2005 with the first volume of the series Aya de Yopougon (Gallimard). Over the years, he has accumulated a number of landmark titles, ranging from collaborations with Joann Sfar to, more recently, a series of biographical titles created alongside Julie Birmant. Their four-part series Pablo (Dargaud), recounting Picasso’s youth, and Isadora (Dargaud) which tells the incredible story of American dancer Isadora Duncan, have become major references in the genre. Most recently, the pair published the adventure series Renée Stone (Dargaud, Europe Comics in English), which follows a young British writer as she travels to Ethiopia in 1930.
Helge Dascher has been translating graphic novels from French and German to English for over twenty years. A contributor to Drawn & Quarterly since the early days, her translations include acclaimed titles such as the Aya series by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, Hostage by Guy Delisle, and Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët. With a background in art history and history, she also translates books and exhibitions for museums in North America and Europe. She lives in Montreal.
Elisa A. Garcia is a Supervising Librarian of Teen Services at the New York Public Library. She is motivated to foster a love of reading in reluctant teen readers and therefore strives to introduce them to a diverse world and experiences through books. Mentoring new librarians, Elisa has savored the opportunity to broaden her scope in promoting diversity in librarianship by building on her love to help our communities and instilling in others the passion she has for libraries and readers as a whole.