Canada Reads winners Mattea Roach & Kate Beaton chat about comics & Cape Breton at Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Composite image with three panels. Person with long brown hair and bangs smiling with arms crossed in blue top on the left. Grey and white book cover with orange text overlaid in the middle. Person with short hair, smiling in bright blue-collared shirt on the right.
Kate Beaton, left, is the author of the Canada Reads-winning Ducks. The Jeopardy! champion Mattea Roach won Canada Reads 2023 championing the graphic memoir. (Corey Katz, Drawn & Quarterly, CBC)

The 2023 edition of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) kicks off with a virtual event where Canada Reads winners Mattea Roach and Kate Beaton reunite on Apr. 24, 2023.

In collaboration with Montreal-based comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly, Beaton and Roach will be speaking virtually on the TCAF YouTube channel Monday Apr. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET, ahead of the general festival’s hybrid virtual and in-person programming at the Toronto Reference Library from Apr. 28-30. 

Beaton made history earlier this year when the book Ducks, championed by Jeopardy! star Roach, became the first graphic memoir to win Canada Reads.

Ducks follows Beaton‘s  two years working in the Albertan oil sands to pay off her student debt. She recounts her experiences with economic migration, sexism and environmental destruction through an illustrated narrative. Highlighting the ways in which humanity is often messy and vulnerable.

In 2022, Ducks was named one of CBC Books’ top Canadian comics and was also one of two Canadian books on Barack Obama’s list of favourite books of 2022. 

In the lead up to Canada Reads debates, Roach and Beaton spoke in conversation about their shared love of comics as a medium and both being from Cape Breton. Roach is an avid fan of graphic novels and felt instantly connected to Beaton‘s story as a young person navigating a post-university world and as someone who also migrated from the Maritimes.

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The Apr. 24 event will include a conversation about being from the Maritimes, the power of comic books and issues of environmentalism, student debt, corporate exploitation and gender violence.

Established in 2004, the annual TCAF was created to promote the diversity and literary worth of comics. The annual festival has in previous years drawn upwards of 20,000 people to its free programming of panel discussions, artist talks, book signings and workshops.

“The old idea where someone might have thought that comics are just for kids is not a question that anyone will ask any more in another 20 years,” said festival director Miles Baker in an interview with CBC Books.

“We’re at a point where the generation who are in their 40s and 50s who grew up with comics now have their own kids who are also into it.”

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