I am sucker for booklists, obviously and this one here on 10 great novels every urbanist should read from Anna Clark on Next City. Aya in Yop City was one of her suggestions:
Abouet has said that she began to write the Aya graphic novels — this one is the first in an informal series — because she was frustrated with the limited portrayal of cities in Africa. Pictured as places of war and famine, she saw literature’s failure to capture the humor and daily rhythms that she remembered from her own childhood in Côte d’Ivoire. In Aya, she brings us to Yop City in 1978, a sunny working-class city in West Africa that brims with youthful energy, infatuation and promise. The story follows our 19-year-old heroine and her friends as they learn what it means to become an adult in this city. Aya is a light-hearted and charming story — hardly a dense portrait of urban life. But that makes it perhaps all the more revealing.
So I picked it up thinking I might use it in my 245 class, and it’s every bit as charming as Clark suggest. Aya, our protagonist, is a nice girl with big dreams, and she has two friends, Bintou and Adjouna. All boy crazy, with difficult parents, they come up together a working-class section of Yopougon-Koute in the Ivory Coast during the late 1970s.
You have to pay attention; the urban aspects of the story are fleeting; the maquis, the housing, the 1,000-star hotel, however, provide a rich and engrossing environment for the story of young men and women trying to find their way. Highly recommended.