Kate Beaton is a Canadian comic artist. She is the author of the award-winning comic series Listen ! A vagrant and Step aside, Popswho each won places on the New York Times list of bestsellers. Listen ! A vagrant helped establish Kate as an important voice of online comedic humor in the 2000s. Her most recent work, a graphic memoir titled Ducks: two years in the oil sands, takes readers in another direction.
Ducks follows Kate’s life right after college. She had graduated with student debt and had been lucky enough to pay it off early: all she had to do was work for a little while extracting oil in eastern Alberta. The tar sands are a world like no other, towns and cities created from scratch to forcibly extract resources from the earth. People worked there because they desperately needed a job, for a myriad of reasons. Kate worked alongside people, mostly men, who were estranged from family, hometown and normal expectations of human behavior.
In this dangerous and desperate world, she has both witnessed and experienced sexual harassment and sexual violence, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell her story exactly as it unfolded. But Ducks is not centered on this story. It’s a collection of short stories about his experience, skillfully woven together. Ducks is about violence against people and against the land, but it’s also about real human beings in a lonely, liminal place – just trying to find a way through the world. Kate talks to Bullseye about her journey writing these memoirs.
Content warning: This conversation with Kate Beaton contains mentions of sexual harassment and sexual violence.