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Factory Summers

Factory Summers

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By Guy Delisle. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Hardcover, 156 pages, 2-Colour, 2021




For three summers beginning when he was 16, cartoonist Guy Delisle worked at a pulp and paper factory in Quebec City. Factory Summerschronicles the daily rhythms of life in the mill, and the twelve-hour shifts he spent in a hot, noisy building filled with arcane machinery. Delisle takes his noted outsider perspective and applies it domestically, this time as a boy amongst men through the universal rite of passage of the summer job. Even as a teenager, Delisle’s keen eye for hypocrisy highlights the tensions of class and the rampant sexism an all-male workplace permits.

As the paper industry slowly began to move overseas, Guy worked the floor doing physically strenuous tasks. He was one of the few young people on site, and furthermore got the job because of his father’s connections, a fact which rightfully earned him disdain from the lifers. Guy’s father spent his whole working life in the white-collar offices above the fray of the machinery, scheduled from 9 to 5 instead of the rigorous 12-hour shifts of the unionized labor. Guy and his dad aren’t close, and Guy’s witnessing of the workplace politics and toxic masculinity leaves him reconciling whether the job was the reason for his dad’s unhappiness.

On his days off, Guy found refuge in art, a world far beyond the factory floor. Delisle shows himself rediscovering comics at the public library, and preparing for animation school—only to be told on the first day, “There are no jobs in animation.” Eager to pursue a job he enjoys and to avoid a career of unhappiness, Guy throws caution to the wind.

Factory Summers was translated by Helge Dascher. Dascher has been translating graphic novels from French and German to English for over twenty years. A contributor to Drawn & Quarterly since the early days, her translations include acclaimed titles such as the Aya series by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, Hostage by Guy Delisle, and Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët. With a background in art history and history, she also translates books and exhibitions for museums in North America and Europe. She lives in Montreal.

Praise for Factory Summers

Delisle’s signature greyscale line drawings, eye for architectural and mechanical details as well as his expressive caricatures bring his memories to vivid life.

Winnipeg Free Press

Factory Summers is filled with the hard lessons that linger long after the job is over. It might just transport you back, body and soul, to a time when summers seemed endless, and work was just a way station to something hopefully better.

The Tyee

In his subtle, matter-of-fact way, Delisle has shown us that art and story can be an escape, for him and for us, not just as a temporary means of withdrawal from reality but as a means of survival.

The Comics Journal

[Factory Summers] is a superb look into the weird idiosyncracies of factory society, the strang coping strategies of the slightly trapped permenent staff, and the gradual decline of this ancient process.

Strong Words Magazine

Factory Summers is the work of an incredible accomplished cartoonist, so the art is something to glorify, especially the scenes of Quebec at night, or lovely little drawings of the factory building itself.  

Slings and Arrows

Wry, illuminating... Delisle's endlessly droll observations result in a captivating, beguiling self-portrait of an artist-in-the-making as a hardworking teen.

Terry Hong, Shelf Awareness

Known for his keen-eyed comics travelogues, Delisle trains his witty reportage on his hometown, recalling a teenage summer laboring at a Quebec factory simmering in class tensions.

Publishers Weekly, Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2021

[Delisle's] textured drawings capture the characters with insight and gentle humor, as well as terrifying close calls with dangerous machinery. [He] pinpoints the lesson learned those summers: 'You can see the benefit of staying in school.' This should please Delisle’s loyal fans with its peek into his young adulthood.

Publishers Weekly

Factory Summers is the key to Delisle’s nonfiction oeuvre: It shows his growing curiosity, in those formative years, both about how things function structurally and about people—and how he learned to listen to them. Its light touch makes a big impact.

Hillary Chute, New York Times

Factory Summers evokes all the formative memories associated with that first summer job—the eclectic coworkers, the long hours and the bittersweetness of clocking out for the last time.


Bittersweet and elliptical... A rites-of-passage portrait of the graphic artist as a young man.

Kirkus Reviews

One of the greatest modern cartoonists.

The Guardian

In this black-and-white coming-of-age graphic memoir, Delisle... recalls with poignancy and humour the class tensions that permeated the summers he spent working, starting at age 16, on the floor of the Quebec City pulp mill where his father was manager for 30 years.

The Globe and Mail

A carefully observed portrait of a time and place, as well as a deeply personal coming-of-age tale. Not to be missed.

Tom Batten, Library Journal, Starred Review

What one takes away from Factory Summers is more than just an insight into an artist’s development; it is a carefully nuanced memoir of a time that clearly had an impact on the young Delisle, one that required him to take the time and space required to better process that particular period of his life.

Broken Frontier

With smart use of a limited color palate, Factory Summers provides a personal history right alongside important lessons on work, climate, how we learn to navigate the world as a young adult, and, in the end, on the nature of family.


Family... plays an important role in Factory Summers, as Delisle explores his relationship with his industrial designer father who has worked at the factory for decades and seems more devoted to drafting than to his kids. Overall, however, the reader sees a very different perspective, that of the young man experiencing the growth that comes from working a tough job. 

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