AYA: The Secrets Come Out, Volume 3

Dearest Reader:

Many of you will be scratching your head right now. Yes, I did review this graphic novel last November. However, those fine people at Feminist Review sent me this lovely book in February to review. I moved away from the quality of the translation this time and focused on the storyline and graphic aspects.

As a result, I have two copies of AYA: The Secret Comes Out and will be giving one copy away. To enter to win, just start following my blog (See FOLLOW button in the right-hand column), and if you are already an e-mail subscriber or following my blog, just leave a comment on any of one of my 172 entries to enter the contest. My 7-year-old daughter will be drawing the name of the winner on Friday, April 23.

The following has been cross-posted at Feminist Review:

AYA: The Secrets Come Out, Volume 3
By Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Drawn and Quarterly

Last summer, in dire need of some pure escapism, I stumbled upon the four-volume Aya comic book series. Inspired from author Marguerite Abouet’s childhood, this series takes us back to the late 1970s on the Ivory Coast to a suburb of Abidjan, Yopougon, known affectionately as Yop City by its residents. What initially piqued my interest was finding a series taken from the point of view of Aya, a 19-year-old African woman—indeed a rare occurrence. Although the bright and studious Aya is the main character, the storyline revolves around the lives of three Yop City families: Aya’s and those of her two friends, Bintou and Adjoua.

Aya is different from her friends. She is serious and plans to become a doctor, while her friends prefer the nightlife of the maquis, a type of outdoor restaurant and dance bar. Aya is a friend to many in her community. She empowers the powerless, but also puts her friends in their place when they need it. Aya is not perfect, and her family has its share of problems.

In The Secrets Come Out, the mistress of Aya’s father stirs the pot when she arrives unannounced on his doorstep with two additional little surprises. Aya is deeply ashamed of her father’s behaviour and begs her mother to teach the wayward Ignace a lesson. However, this event is quickly overshadowed by the announcement of the skinny and bespectacled Koffi, Bintou's father, who tells his family that he is going to take a second wife, who is the same age as his daughter. His news creates an uproariously funny fallout in the community. Of the four volumes, The Secrets Come Out is by far the most humorous.

Instead of concentrating on the various scourges that plague Africa, the Aya series presents the quickly changing fortunes of people living on the Ivory Coast. We see an Africa replete with intrigue, beauty and humour. The Yop City of the late 1970s ironically mirrors many of the same social issues that we were dealing with ourselves here in North America: homosexuality, infidelity and the changing roles of women. As for polygamy, although it is illegal, we can’t forget that it is still practised here in North America.

Although the story of Aya will draw you in, it is the panels of Clément Oubrerie that gives this series its pure escapism. Not only are his drawings good, but his choice of colours are exceptional. I particularly enjoyed the range of blues and violets that he used for the night scenes. There are also a few bonus features at the back to get you better acquainted with some of the customs, recipes and lingo used on the Ivory Coast.This is an excellent translation from the original French series.

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Book Review: Violent Partners by Linda G Mills
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Maddy | April 19, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Hi Heather! I would SO love to win this book :) It sounds super interesting.

Heather | April 19, 2010 at 11:32 AM

It is a great series, and the best part is that it is just as good in English as in French, but the English is about $10 cheaper. Your name is in the draw. Thanks for stopping by. Heather

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