A review of Marguerite Abouet’s Akissi: Feline Invasion
Poor Akissi! The neighbourhood cats are pursuing her to steal her fish, her little monkey Boubou almost ends up in a frying pan, and she’s nothing but a pest to her older brother Fofana, but Akissi is a true adventurer, full of silliness and fun, and nothing will scare her for long!
This is a collection of 7 humorous short stories in comic form set in West Africa. This is the first and only volume (so far) that has been translated from the original French into English.
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This was a fun little collection. I had seen the covers of Marguerite Abouet’s Aya graphic novel as well as Akissi floating around for a while and been curious about them. Akissi turned out easier to get my hands on since it’s currently being published by Nobrow‘s new kid lit imprint Flying Eye Books.
Akissi has a distinctive African feel that’s hard to explain exactly and might be slightly funny-odd in some instances to many Western readers (particularly those outside of the African diaspora). The stories have a tendency to feel a little staccato in a similar way that many African stories are written (think along the vein of Things Fall Apart). It also feels kind of raw and earnest which I really love.
I always think it’s interesting how much responsibility these kinds of books are saddled with to be the best of what they represent—in this case the West African perspective. Although I enjoyed this and found it funny and relatable in places (and, at the very least, it was a fun curiosity), it didn’t totally blow my mind. And I worry sometimes that there are some people who might come across books like these and, if they don’t like them, slate off all books from African/black female authors. I think(/hope) that’s a totally irrational thought, but I do think books by diverse authors are sometimes unfairly made to shoulder the weight of a whole cultural/social/ethnic/etc group. If you don’t like Akissi, I’m sure there are a ton of other comics/kidlit books from West Africa/black authors that are worth picking up. So don’t give up on looking outside the box.
As a bonus, there’s a surprise (well, not anymore…) African recipe on the back for Coconut Goat’s Droppings! (Don’t worry, there are no goats or droppings involved.) I really loved that touch. It would be a fun activity to do with kids to introduce them in a great (and the tastiest!) way to a new culture. I’m a strong believer in food as a cure-all, bond-maker and bridge-builder. Apparently the Aya series also has recipes in the back.
Overall I found this a very charming, fun read and I love the illustration. I want more Akissi stories and will probably pursue the French editions of the other volumes if no English translations are published soon.
genre: humour, kid lit, graphic novel
publisher: Flying Eye Books
source: Waterstones Marketplace
date read: 19 May 2015
recommend for: fans of kid lit and/or comics, those interested in other cultures, anyone looking for some silly laughs
pros: funny, different perspective, silly, recipe at the back
cons: some dialogue can seem a little staccato/choppy,