Frustrated with the limitations of the young adult fiction market, Abouet set out to do something different. The quotidian nature of the stories in Aya of Yop City counters heavily with common conceptions and representation of African life, such as famine, civil war and unhinged wilderness. All of the characters are connected by the main character, Aya, as she assists and helps them through their various dilemmas and daily issues. The book begins with the birth of the son of Moussa and Adjoua. He begins to work for his father. His father seems to be very hard on him, but at the same time Moussa is extremely lazy and does not really do much.
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Supposedly Aya, by being about the every day lives of young middle class women I read the introduction uncomfortably. Supposedly Aya, by being about the every day lives of young middle class women who are worried about family infidelity and finding love but not about where their next meal is going to come from or whether the state they live in will collapse, works against stereotypes about Africa, but if the setting is presented as an exception, thanks to "Western" influence, then that only reinforces some of the most pernicious stereotypes "Westerners" have about exploited countries and people: that "Western" influence is good for exploited countries, that "universal" means "Western" or "just like us [Westerners]", that a story must be "universal" to be relevant and interesting But, with that said, actually I really enjoyed the book.
While the supplementary material at the back of the book suggested it had been written for non-Ivoirians, and the interview with Marguerite Abouet suggests that it represents a world seen through nostalgia both because she is writing about her childhood and because she is writing about a time remembered as a "golden age" although it was unsustainable from the start, based on a quick cash-out rather than real development if I can use such a loaded word , it certainly seems real and interesting, if you like soap opera, or, I guess, Nollywood my experience of which is limited , or, well, gossip.
I certainly had to keep turning the pages to see what was going to happen, sometimes feeling a little bit unsure as to whether the part of myself being nourished might be one, as DFW wrote , better left unfed. But most of the time, the personal was excitingly political, the drawings were fun, and "Western influence" presented itself mainly in the form of a lousy liar pretending he was from Paris to get women to sleep with him The book exudes love and respect for the place and people it is about, and certainly not for any discernable Western-ness about them.
I: Okay, but all the men cheat Aya can pretty much be summed up with the two-page interview with the author from the afterword. I: Okay, but all the men cheat on all the women! So, gender inequality! Also probably AIDS!
A: Eh, maybe? But like, all the women win in the end. So not really. I: Um ok. Because Aya TOTALLY dangles a bunch of heavy shit in front of the audience -- violence, class struggle, gay rights, gender roles, capitalism, despotism, and domestic abuse -- and then plays the whole thing off like a sitcom.
It is either A an intentional mindfuck or B borderline sociopathic. Seriously that is what it says. I just wanted to tell a story of my childhood and make it into a soap opera. Is that something I should have cleared with you first? The whole thing makes me tired and stressed out. It also might be a totally fucked-up story about a lot of bigger, heavier things, but for some reason it just sort of chooses to make light of all of them because it knows better than me.
Aya: Life in Yop City