Brolin Xavier

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton — Review


Ducks is a graphic novel/memoir by Kate Beaton, who you might know from her online comic, “Hark! A Vagrant.” It shows her experience working at the oil sands in Alberta for two years in the mid-to-late 2000s. She’s often one of a handful women at a camp and is the object of ridiculous amount of sexual harassment and worse. She portrays this in a matter-of-fact way, the worst of it blacked out. Big content warning for sexual assault, if you haven’t guessed already.

It’s not all grim, and it’s not all an indictment of the people that worked and still work in the oil sands though. Beaton often emphasizes her coworkers’ humanity and decency, even highlights her initial exposure to the effects of the oil extraction on local indigenous communities. She’s not really setting out to condemn or demonize. She shows the place as it was for her, and others around her. Grim, lonely, hazardous to their health, but also a source of much-needed income, a way to gain financial footing.

Lovely book.

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