Cover Image: Ducks

Ducks

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Member Reviews

This book is as devastating as it is beautiful. I haven't devoured a graphic memoir in such a long time, but Kate Beaton's story was one I couldn't put down. I've never read anything quite like Ducks. The story is so singular and yet the heart of it is universal and so reflective of many people's experiences in one way or another.
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While this is very different in scope and tone from her other works, Beaton's unique sense of humor and writing style are still very prominent in this book.  Focusing on the two years she spent working in Canada's Oil Sands to pay off her student loans, Beaton paints a bleak, realistic look at how life was for her in these isolated and often depressing camps.  It was fascinating, in a horrifying sort of way, reading about what it's like working in this environment, and the obstacles and trauma Beaton and her fellow workers (particularly the few women employed there) faced.  The topics covered can by dark and heavy, but it is a worthwhile read and done well in a way only Beaton could pull off.
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Perhaps Kate Beaton's best work yet, which is something, given her absolutely lustrous career. DUCKS is a coming-of-age narrative in an unusual setting: the oil sands of Alberta. A fascinating exploration of an industry and way of life that few, perhaps, have experienced. Her cartooning is immaculate here, rendering monstrous machinery and subtle facial expressions in equally vivid yet subtle detail. Beaton explores isolation, heartbreak, trauma, the exploitation of nature, growing up, poverty, and other heavy topics with a deft hand, putting her versatility and range on full display. This is one I will be thinking about for a long, long time.
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I love Kate Beaton's books and I am in awe of her most recent and most personal work, Ducks. This is an important, emotional look at Kate's time working in The Alberta oil sands as she tried to pay off her student loan debt. To say this industry is male dominated is an understatement, as men out number women 50 to 1. I'm so glad I have the opportunity to read this eye opening account, which sheds light on the working conditions, environmental impact, and the impact on first nation's people. Even though the subject matter is heavy, there are moments of humor and story unfolds in such an organic way, the end result is poignant, charming, and very human. Highly recommended to fans of Kare Beaton, or people who enjoy graphic memoirs.
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I was so excited to see this graphic memoir about working in Alberta's oilsands. Kate Beaton does an excellent job relating her story and the nuanced feelings of those working in the oil and gas industry. It is especially important to hear from women in the field. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this title.
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This graphic memoir is incredible. Beaton masterfully crafts her experience in the world of the oil sands of northern Alberta filled with contradictions that feel very true to life. Each scene is perfectly crafted and paced to make the most impact, with the smallest gestures of kindness given the time and weight they need to fully breathe to full page spreads of landscapes to fully place the reader in this world.

Ducks is guaranteed to be an instant classic of the graphic memoir form of the same caliber as Fun Home.
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Kate Beaton has an amazing ability to tell tough stories with humor.  In just the squint of an eye or sideways glance, her characters get across an array of human emotions without having to explain anything.  
This is her story of her time working out in the oil sands camps in Canada in order to pay off her student loan debt.  The oil sands offer money and jobs unavailable elsewhere, as small communities see their livelihoods disappear. But in these work conditions, where men far outnumber the women working there, isolation and loneliness create a toxic atmosphere.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book.

To preface this, I don't think I've read a book that so deeply resonated with me in a very long time.  I had to put the book down at certain points and just cry because I've experienced many of the things Beaton discussed in Ducks, which I’ll touch on below.  This is a harrowing but important read for everyone, as the book discusses many experiences working class families go through in North America.

Ducks is a memoir that only covers roughly 3 years of Kate Beaton's life.  The first year is her starting out in the oil sands, the second year (or more like half a year) is a break she had in British Columbia working at a museum, and the third year is her remaining time in the oil sands.  I became a fan of Kate Beaton in high school when my then-boyfriend and I shared her history-related webcomics with each other, and I later went back and read her entire bibliography in grad school. These books are much different from this one, so I was surprised by the different tone of Ducks. For example, Beaton tends to be more private about her personal life, so I had no idea she came from the same background as me, namely a working class Catholic family in a stupid-cold region where jobs are disappearing.  I always assumed from her writing she was from an upper middle class family located somewhere like Toronto or Vancouver. I don't feel like this difference in tone was a bad thing, though. I enjoyed seeing Beaton's range as an author, and was impressed she could go from humorous 4 panel comics to a full-length graphic memoir. Additionally, I appreciated her candor about her life, as it put her previous work in a new light and made me appreciate it more.

There were many other parallels I had with Beaton's life, such as going into college and getting a 'useless' degree then having to figure out a way to make it lucrative (in my case 'classics' then getting a master's in library science).  However, the parallel I kept going back to is how the men who work at those camps come from everyday backgrounds, and the camp creates a harmful environment that messes with them and their families.  I honestly believe this is an issue that applies to many working class jobs.  My father is an automotive worker and he worked afternoons for a few years in my childhood.  This meant I only saw him on Saturdays and Sundays.  The experience of being separated from his family for such long stretches of time took such a toll on his mental health he eventually took a pay cut to get back on days.  Additionally, his relationship with my brother and I was permanently damaged, as he missed many important childhood milestones. I thought about this a lot in regards to the men in the oil sands, who often went even longer without seeing their families.

The main thing I took away from this book is that a lot more people than you think are ducks.  I think everyone should read this book, especially if you wonder why people work jobs that are deemed harmful to society, the environment, etc. and the desperation that led them to it.
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I love Kate Beaton's previous work so I was excited when I heard she had a new book coming out. As a memoir, this is very different from the sillier stuff she is know for. It is the recounting of the 2 years Beaton worked in the oil sands of Canada in order to pay back her student loans. It deals with serious and at times, heartbreaking moments of her first foray into the world beyond college. Although Beaton struggles with issues of depression, isolation, sexual harassment, and more in the book, it remains a hopeful read of a woman starting out in the world.
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Beautiful and bleak. Kate Beaton is so human, and makes us laugh and cry on the same page. I treasure everything she chooses to put out, but most especially when she chooses to share her story with us.
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Fellow reviewers please note - there is a note from Kate at the end of this, PLEASE FUCKING READ IT and also respect it. This is a graphic novel about Kate’s three years working in the oil sands to pay off her student loans (which, big fucking mood), but it’s also about the environment and all of the little things that roll and roll and roll together until in the end you realize the full scale of what you’re looking at, and the small slight chips that slowly wear you down. If you’ve been following her since Hark!, you’ll see bits and pieces of very familiar things peeking through. this is going to appear on a lot of year end review lists for a reason. My personal recommendation is that at several points I had to put it down because I was sobbing so hard, but also laughing so hard. You know this juxtaposition if you’ve read her other stuff. This is her first foray into autobiographical storytelling but it hits perfectly. Preorder it now.
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Wow!!!  I read this book in one day because I was so pulled in by Kate’s experience working at the oil sands. I am not sharing this review to Goodreads because I want to respect her wishes of not sharing that part of the story in reviews.. Thank you Kate for sharing that very private part of your life with us. Through your artwork it was so powerful with the choice of at one point just blackness and the part that made my breath catch in my throat was the drawing of when you came back to your room and slumped to the floor. The pages after that were just white. I was moved.

I can’t imagine what it was like working in tough conditions like that with all that maleness all the time. I have worked in male dominated jobs before but nothing on that level. It was nice seeing the men that did come along side of you and watched out for you. 

I can’t wait to tell people about this book!  It should be a must read for secondary schools :)
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An honest perspective of a woman enduring a man's world via work camps trying to make ends meet. How much would you endure for financial freedom?
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Thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC I received in exchange for an honest review. 

Ducks is a really different Kate Beaton than the one you might know from Hark! A Vagrant, The Princess and the Pony, or King Baby. In this first venture into memoir, Beaton gives us a look into her years spent working for an oil company hundreds of miles away from home as a means of paying off her student debt. 

Alberta's oil boom brings east coast Canadians to the rural and isolated Fort McMurray, far from family and all that they love, in the hopes of supporting their families. After graduation, Kate decides to follow the money despite her family's protests.

After a suggestion from a family friend to go for a job in the tool crib, one of the safer and more profitable positions, Kate moves with little more than the clothes on her back in hopes of quickly paying off her student loans so she can someday pursue her dreams of art. The landscape of the Oil Sands is a far cry from home, but even worse is the depression, isolation, and frequent sexual harassment. As one of only a few women out of hundreds of men, everywhere Kate turns she is objectified and insulted. She watches men her father's age, with families back home, behave in a lecherous manner. Her door knob is regularly rattled at night. She even returns to her room one evening to find a stranger waiting inside. People change in the Oil Sands. Kate included.

This is a multifaceted story of trauma. Even as she battles harassment at the hands of her colleagues, Kate can recognize what the environment of Fort McMurray inspires in a person, how one can become hardened, desensitized, and broken by the experience. As she watches colleagues become maimed, depressed, crushed under the isolation, or even physically crushed by the dangerous equipment, die by suicide,  it's difficult to reconcile the high wages with the ultimate cost. Juxtaposed next to the conversation surrounding what, exactly, the Oil Sands is doing to the land from which it takes, readers are left wondering what is ultimately lost and, if anything is gained, who's got it?

The style, while undeniably Beaton, is a far cry from the caricature presented in her webcomics or children's books. In shades of gray, Ducks is stark, serious, with only occasional moments of cartoonish levity. Stylistically it's somewhat divorced from the bug-eyed Pony or the steamy Heathcliffes of Beaton's past work — that was fiction, this is real life. 

I hope to see more stories like this from Kate in the future. She's got a knack for humor, but Ducks proves she has the chops for more serious non-fiction. Thoughtful, heartbreaking, and dark, Ducks is undoubtedly one of the best graphic novels I've encountered this year.
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A very nuanced and considered look at an unexplored cross-section of Canadian society. Beaton's art is expressive while understated, and her own perspective is strongly expressed while also compassionate to others.
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Phenomenal. Ducks was honest and heartbreaking and soberingly real in a way that I never expected. We are all the titular ducks.
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I look forward to reading this again in print to better appreciate the details in Beaton's art, which is so full of emotion and character. I've been reading her comics since she was publishing on Livejournal, and I had a general impression about her work in the oil sands from those early comics, but like most readers I'm more familiar with her fun and wacky comics. This book is not that. This is a sensitive and thoughtful memoir about a difficult time period in anyone's life: when you are learning how to be yourself in the world as an adult. That this growth is happening in such an extreme environment heightens everything. I am confident that this book will make for an excellent book club discussion title.
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Ducks is a graphic memoir about the author's experience working in the oil sands in Alberta. I'll admit I really wasn't familiar with the setting at all, so it was really interesting to get a glimpse into mid-2000s Canada. Beaton is unflinching in showing her experience as a woman in a very male field, and I could tell as I was reading that this will be a story that stays with me for a long time. As far as execution goes, this is the perfect graphic memoir. I'm grateful that Beaton is willing to share this part of herself, and I'm glad I was able to read it. 

Thank you to Drawn & Quarterly and NetGalley for providing a copy for review.
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I'm a longtime fan of Kate Beaton's work, so it's not a surprise at all that I loved her graphic memoir DUCKS. I love a micro-memoir--life writing so particular to a time and place that the reader leaves feeling as though she too had lived her formative years there. DUCKS is specific to the post-college millennial experience and to the eastern Canadian working class experience. The memoir transforms into a sharp examination of rape culture & the pervasiveness of everyday misogyny, particularly in blue collar industry (though Beaton is careful to show that sexism isn't a 'poor people problem' but rather a societal ill on all levels and industries.). A difficult read at times but an important, complicated one!
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This book was phenomenal and I read it in one sitting. Kate Beaton's usual dry, often dark humor shows up occasionally but this title is nothing like her humorous historical and cultural cartoons aside from her drawing style. Kate gets personal with her warm family life, her decision to take tough and isolating work in rural western Canada to pay off her student loans, and the emotionally exhausting work and sexism she dealt with. She depicts various  characters--some kind, some obnoxious  some a combination, with humanity and realism.
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