A Graphic Novel Finds a Relatable Hero in a Modern African Woman

One of the most successful African comics has no super heroes, and certainly no supernatural powers.

Instead, “Aya,” a graphic novel series, is full of everyday heroes, and topping the list is Aya herself, a young woman navigating the delights and obstacles of early adulthood in the West African nation of Ivory Coast.

Inspired by the childhood years that its author, Marguerite Abouet, spent in Ivory Coast and focused on daily life in a working-class suburb of Abidjan, the country’s largest city, the series mixes humor and biting takes on society, with a feminist twist — all vividly captured by Clément Oubrerie, the illustrator.

In the books, Aya and her friends go on awkward first dates, hook up and share countless shenanigans that celebrate Ivory Coast’s favorite sport after soccer — “palabrer,” or talking endlessly.

The relatable characters help explain the instant acclaim “Aya” won from readers and critics when it was first released in France in 2005; the following year, it won the award for best debut at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, one of the world’s leading comic gatherings. The books have since been translated into 15 languages and attracted more than a million readers worldwide.

Abouet’s stories about young women in West Africa have found a global audience.

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