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A group of teenage girls lie to their parents to go out dancing. They worry over schoolwork and what they’re going to do with their lives. They get into trouble and face consequences of their actions.
This probably sounds like a story you’ve read. And Aya (Drawn and Quarterly, 2007) does tread familiar ground in that respect.
Except for one key thing: It takes place in the Ivory Coast in 1978.
Writer Marguerite Abouet has a clear voice about the time and place she’s writing about. She had a light touch when it comes to the stories of the title character Aya and her friends, Adjoua and Bintou, but she doesn’t shy away from presenting these girls’ reality — one that was full of class divisions and sexism.
Artist Clement Oubrerie is well-matched to Abouet’s style. His art is breezy in its suggestion of movement and his eye for posture and facial features go a long way to suggest the personalities of these characters.
In their hands, these young women are strong, even when they face adversity and the effects of their behavior (I like that while there are repercussions, the girls aren’t punished for being who they are — at least not any more than the men involved). They still have people to answer to, sure, but they are their own people, even given the constraints of the society they lived in.
Still, the story is ultimately simple, and as enjoyable as the work of Abouet and Oubrerie is, this volume doesn’t amount to much. It’s a lovely glimpse into these lives in this time and place, but it didn’t exactly linger too long. Still, I wouldn’t mind reading more about Aya and her life, so they did something right here.