Review by Frank Plowright
This second book, the middle of a three volume series, catches up on Aya, her family, her friends and their families, primarily living in the Abidjan suburb of Yopougon, known to residents as Yop City. Aya ended with doubt suddenly cast on whether or not the son of local business magnate was responsible for Adjoua’s baby. As that followed a shotgun wedding, and none too happy grandparents on the paternal side, any get-out is valuable to them. However, as Aya of Yop City takes place in the late 1970s there are no paternity tests readily available.
Adjoua’s father, Hyacinte is keen to sustain marriage into what’s perceived a better family, so keeps taking photographs of his relatives in an attempt to convince others that the baby looks like them. When that doesn’t work he begins photographing random strangers. In a fantastic bit of comedy plotting Marguerite Abouet has him chance on a person he’s never met, but whom several people believe to be the baby’s real father. It’s indicative of the sharp turns her comedy drama takes. She’s good at making the cast sympathetic, although artist Clément Oubrerie has a large say in that with his joyful illustrations, and while everyone is true to their established personality the surprises still come. Aya has the role of the sensible one, the person in whom all others confide, and to whom the younger cast members come to for advice. Her friends Adjoua and Bintou live in the moment, with Bintou more of a dreamer and unlikely to realise she’s being strung along.
Abouet is also very loyal to her cast. Other creators might discard people once they’ve served their dramatic purpose, but she’s good at finding reasons to let us see them again. It results in a few disjointed scenes, but the comedy drama accommodates most members of four large families. There’s a feeling of drifting into their lives over a couple of months, and then out again, but having been very pleased at the experience. Nothing seems forced, contrived to produce conflict, and Abouet ensures we can understand everyone’s view, although by our standards several of the men behave very poorly. You’ll think you know what everything’s building toward, but Abouet has a great shock in store.