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Ivory Coast hair salon patrons curl up with a good book - The National

Love the bonus questions and discussion content from Tara Sullivan. However this book could have been better with an introduction towards the characters and relations. Kirkus Reviews. Blogs: Africa Access. Social Justice Books. Your email address will not be published. Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Africa Access Review. Reviewed by Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, Ph. Anonymous says:. February 20, at pm. 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. 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. She also seems to know a plethora of guys who are either intoxicated with their own studliness or a bit dim. Set in late s 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.

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Abouet's storytelling is straightforward but gently nuanced, while Oubrerie's cartooning mixes sepia with bright hues that seem to reflect the ambient sunlight. Set in the working-class neighborhood of 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. Highly recommended.

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Paul, Minnesota, Library Journal starred review. 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.


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This pleasing volume will make a good addition to graphic-novel collections. 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.

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.

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!


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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. 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.

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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.

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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.