Kate Beaton. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands. Montreal, Quebec: Drawn and Quarterly, September 2022.
Kate Beaton’s Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is a landmark graphic memoir which perfectly captures the fraught environment of Alberta’s oil sands at the turn of the 21st century. Originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Beaton documents her postgraduate move to Alberta to pay off her student loans. The book considers big issues—economic exploitation and environmental impact—as well as smaller, deeply personal forces. Beaton captures the frequent harassment and misogyny experienced in the male-dominated camps with empathy, never truly condemning nor forgiving the irreparable damage she continues to reckon with. It is a story of isolation and desperation, of people and the environments in which they endure, and the ways extractive capitalism impacts our planet and our bodies. Above all, it’s a vital piece of Canadian history drawn by one of the strongest voices in cartooning today.