Factory Summers

Drawn & Quarterly. Jun. 2021. 156p. ISBN 9781770464599. $22.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Having previously offered keenly perceptive records of his experiences in China, Myanmar, Israel and Palestine, and North Korea, Delisle (The Handbook for Lazy Parents) turns his attention to the Quebec City Pulp and Paper Mill in this memoir of the three summers he spent working there, beginning when he was 16. Over a succession of 12-hour shifts spent maintaining dangerous machinery that emits a deafening roar and radiates smothering heat, Delisle observes the work’s physical and mental toll on manual laborers, listens as his coworkers swap misogynistic banter, and becomes aware of how bitterly they resent the white-collar managers and engineers sitting in tidy offices far from the factory floor. That resentment is particularly eye-opening, as one of those white-collar managers happens to be Delisle’s father. The two aren’t close—during a rare visit, his father remains standing, eschewing conversation to deliver a rambling monologue. As Delisle navigates his new class consciousness and the toxic masculinity rampant at the mill, he begins to wonder how the environment might have shaped his father; more importantly, he’s galvanized to chase his own artistic aspirations.
VERDICT A carefully observed portrait of a time and place, as well as a deeply personal coming-of-age tale. Not to be missed.
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