Captivating and devastating! With unfailing humanism, Beaton chronicles the extractions — from the environment, from minority groups, from ourselves — in which we are all complicit. She finds empathy for the lonely men of the Alberta oil sands despite her mistreatment at their hands, and moments of humor and warmth despite the bleakness of her experiences. A must-read, especially if you have student loans. Recommended By Kai B., Powells.com
Kate Beaton’s autobiographical graphic novel about years spent working amidst the fracking boom in Alberta skillfully uses the medium to show the rhythms and realities of a hostile workplace: it often seems fine; it never stays that way. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"An exceptionally beautiful book about loneliness, labor, and survival." — Carmen Maria Machado
Before there was Kate Beaton, New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons, specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where the lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles, and gaelic folk songs. After university, Katie heads out west to take advantage of Alberta's oil rush, part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can't find it in the homeland they love so much. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, what the journey will actually cost Katie will be far more than she anticipates.
Arriving in Fort McMurray, Katie finds work in the lucrative camps owned and operated by the world's largest oil companies. As one of the few women among thousands of men, the culture shock is palpable. It does not hit home until she moves to a spartan, isolated worksite for higher pay. Katie encounters the harsh reality of life in the oil sands where trauma is an everyday occurrence yet never discussed. For young Katie, her wounds may never heal.
Beaton's natural cartooning prowess is on full display as she draws colossal machinery and mammoth vehicles set against a sublime Albertan backdrop of wildlife, Northern Lights, and Rocky Mountains. Her first full length graphic narrative, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is an untold story of Canada: a country that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos and natural beauty while simultaneously exploiting both the riches of its land and the humanity of its people.
"[Ducks] is a fascinating, harrowing, unforgettable book about a place few outsiders can comprehend." — Kirkus (Starred Review)
"This is graphic memoir at its finest." Booklist (Starred Review)
"An unflinchingly honest coming-of-age memoir and unforgettable depiction of capitalism's dehumanizing effect on the individual." — Library Journal (Starred Review)
About the Author
Kate Beaton was born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. After graduating from Mount Allison University with a degree in anthropology, she moved to Alberta in search of work that would allow her to pay down her student loans. During the years she spent out West, Beaton began creating webcomics under the name Hark! A Vagrant!
, quickly drawing a substantial following around the world.
The collections of her landmark strip Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside Pops each spent several months on the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list, as well as appearing on best of the year lists from Time, The Washington Post, Vulture, NPR Books, and winning the Eisner, Ignatz, Harvey, and Doug Wright Awards. She has also published the picture books King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.
Beaton lives in Cape Breton with her family.