Graphic Memoir Review: Ducks by Kate Beaton

Ducks by Kate Beaton. Drawn & Quarterly, 2022. 9781770462892. 436pp.

Beaton’s Hark A Vagrant! comic strip proved she’s one of the best cartoonists ever — I rank her work right up there with The Far Side and Peanuts.

This is Beaton’s memoir of the two years she spent working in the Alberta Tar Sands to pay off her student loans, when she was twenty-one. After starting as a waitress, she works at different sites in tool sheds and offices, and at every one men outnumber women to a staggering degree. And at the men behave badly (and sometimes terribly) which is worse because, in remote camps where the money is better, she and the few other women who work there live in shared housing with the men, too.

Beaton is a master of supplementing the sense of being stuck in an awful job in an awful place with wonderful character moments, making the reader feel like we know her family and the people she works with, good and awful. And the pacing of her memoir is incredible — she makes it clear that where she worked was not just a series hostile workplaces but environmental hellholes as well. It reminds me of no other book as much as Guy Delisle’s Hostage and the way it gave a sense of the passage of time as the kidnapped Christophe AndrĂ© experienced it.

This is the best memoir I’ve read in years, which is saying something because there have been so many great graphic memoirs published recently.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.