BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Factory Summers by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall [in Shelf Awareness]

Renowned for his international travelogues – Pyongyang; Shenzhen; Jerusalem – Guy Delisle now mines his adolescence for a magnetic Factory Summers. Before he became an award-winning graphic auteur, Delisle at 16 worked in a Quebec City pulp and paper mill where his father was an industrial designer. The labor was grueling: 12-hour graveyard shifts in sauna-like conditions amid loud, dangerous equipment, the tedium broken up by breaks in a cooled, soundproofed shack in between the machines. Delisle spent three summers there, although he’s quick to realize, “one thing about working at the mill when you’re under twenty is that you can see the benefit of staying in school.” Until his first animation job liberates him from the factory grind, his three-time annual ordeal provides wry, illuminating fodder – about entitlement, societal barriers, casual homophobia and misogyny, as well as intimate glimpses of Delisle’s awkward relationship with his father, his youthful musical preferences (Neil Young, Genesis), and even his self-directed graphic education (thank you, libraries!).

Delisle presents his memories predominantly in black-gray-white panels with splashes of orange – his shirt, the factory smoke, sound effects. His boldly outlined illustrations are immediately immersive, while unexpected details and diversions are an invitation for deeper engagement: he (voluntarily) reads Of Mice and Men and cries over Lenny’s fate; the mill’s architectural provenance merits attentive pages, as does Canadian log-driving history. His encounters in the break shack reveal lifers (ready with unwanted marriage advice and fascinated by topless aerobics) and newbies (sharing nude modeling secrets and homemade lunches with love notes). Delisle’s endlessly droll observations result in a captivating, beguiling self-portrait of an artist-in-the-making as a hardworking teen.

Discover: Graphic auteur Guy Delisle takes a break from his award-winning international travelogues to drolly and beguilingly examine three teenage summers spent working in a Quebec pulp and paper mill.

Review: “Graphic Books,” Shelf Awareness, June 18, 2021

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2021


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