Canada Reads

Jeopardy! super-champion Mattea Roach is ready for their next big challenge: Canada Reads

Mattea Roach is championing the graphic memoir Ducks by Kate Beaton on the great Canadian book debate. Tune in March 27-30 on CBC TV, CB Radio, CBC Gem, CBC Listen and CBC Books.

Mattea Roach is championing the graphic memoir Ducks by Kate Beaton on the great Canadian book debate

A composite photo of a gray book cover featuring an illustration of a woman working in the oil fields and a photo of a young woman with short hair and glasses standing at a podium wearing a black blazer and white shirt.
Jeopardy! champion Mattea Roach is championing Ducks by Kate Beaton. (CBC)
In this introduction to the comic Ducks by Kate Beaton, discover what the book is about and why Jeopardy! Super-champion Mattea Roach chose it for Canada Reads 2023.

Jeopardy! super-champion Mattea Roach is championing the graphic memoir Ducks by Kate Beaton on Canada Reads 2023!

The great Canadian book debate will take place on March 27-30. This year, we are looking for one book to shift your perspective. 

The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC GemCBC Listen and on CBC Books

The debates will take place live at 10:05 a.m. ET (that's an hour earlier than recent years). You can tune in live or catch a replay on the platform of your choice. You can see all the broadcast details here.

A very personal story

An illustrated book cover featuring a woman standing on the steps of a truck in the oil sands.

Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Beaton leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.

Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops! and two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.

"Going out there, I knew that I wasn't going to have a good time. I knew I wasn't gonna like it, but I knew that I should be grateful for the job I was going to get. The fact that somebody was going to hire me and give me money was the good thing. Back home, they were calling it things like 'money jail,'" Beaton told Shelagh Rogers during an interview on The Next Chapter.

Going out there, I knew that I wasn't going to have a good time. I knew I wasn't gonna like it, but I knew that I should be grateful for the job I was going to get.- Kate Beaton on working in the Alberta oil sands

"It doesn't evoke a sense of enjoyment, right? But I didn't know the details in any way. What I expected was to work for money that I should be grateful to have. And I never expected a corporation to treat me nicely, but I also didn't know exactly what I was stepping into."

LISTEN | Kate Beaton talks to Shelagh Rogers about Ducks:

Kate Beaton talks to Shelagh Rogers about her graphic memoir, Ducks.

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

When writing the story, Beaton knew she was sharing her personal experience, but also that it would reflect the story of her wider Cape Breton community.

Interior pages from Kate Beaton's graphic memoir Ducks.
Interior pages from Kate Beaton's graphic memoir Ducks. (Drawn and Quarterly)

"There has been a lot of support since the book came out, since it's my autobiography. But I am also representing where I am from. So I always hope that I would do a good job of that, that I would represent my community and where I am from in an honest way and a way that will make people feel seen and heard, Beaton told Tom Power on Q.

It's this representation that has made the book's success so meaningful. "When people from home enjoy the book — that makes me feel the most gratified."

LISTEN | Kate Beaton reflects on the success of Ducks:

Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton got a surprise over the holidays when her graphic memoir Ducks landed on Barack Obama’s list of favorite books of 2022. She shares her reaction to the former U.S. president’s endorsement, and what happens to an author when they’re promoted by one of the world’s most famous literary tastemakers.

From Jeopardy! to Canada Reads

Mattea Roach is the most successful Canadian competitor in Jeopardy! history. In the spring of 2022, they won a record-setting 23 games. They appeared in the 2022 edition of Jeopardy!'s tournament of champions and will star in the Jeopardy! Masters spin-off

They are also a writer and podcast host. They are originally from Halifax, but currently live in Toronto.

WATCH | Mattea Roach on life after Jeopardy!:

Jeopardy! thrust Mattea Roach into the spotlight, now what?

7 months ago
Duration 10:23
Fresh off her run on Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions, Mattea Roach shares some secrets of her success at the iconic TV trivia game with The National’s Ian Hanomansing, while also talking about becoming a household name and the importance of LGBTQ representation.


"I'm proud of how I did. To get to play Jeopardy! one time, one game, is such a huge honour and is a life highlight for most people who get to do it. So the fact I've now gotten to play, in total, 26 games of Jeopardy!, a 24-2 record is something I am pretty happy with," Roach told The National in November, shortly after their record-setting Jeopardy! run ended. "I had so much fun."

The run turned Roach from a recent University of Toronto grad and aspiring law student into a household name in Canada.

"I've had so many cool opportunities come across my desk as a result of Jeopardy!, things I could have never really imagined," they said. "I feel like my life is still in the process of changing because of Jeopardy!"

LISTEN | Mattea Roach reflects on how Jeopardy! changed their life:

Since her historic 23-win run on Jeopardy! in the spring, Mattea Roach has been keeping herself busy. The 24-year-old LSAT tutor has returned to the popular game show for its Tournament of Champions, started hosting a political podcast and signed with a literary agent to work on ideas for a possible book. But even with all those accomplishments, Roach says she’s constantly being asked what she’s going to do next. She joins Piya Chattopadhyay to talk about life after Jeopardy!, and all the pressure that comes with her newfound fame.

A comic book on Canada Reads? Yes, please

Ducks is only the second comic books to appear on Canada Reads — the first was Jeff Lemire's Essex County in 2011. But don't let the format get in the way of checking it out.

"I love the way that Kate tells stories through her art and through prose," Roach said on Commotion. "One thing that graphic novels do so well is that they cut to the core of emotions, they cut to the core of storytelling because they have to present things in a way where they are not being too wordy and they are able to express really deep feelings through the artwork."

LISTEN | Mattea Roach makes their case for Ducks on Commotion:

Jeopardy! and Canada Reads champion Mattea Roach joins Elamin Abdelmahmoud to talk about their love for Kate Beaton's graphic novel Ducks, and who might make a strong ally in this year's competition.

And even though Ducks is about a young woman leaving the Maritimes to work in the Alberta oil sands, Roach believes the story has something for everybody.

"It is a book that is a memoir about a young woman from the East Coast, who went to work in the oil sands. So there's an angle for people from the Maritimes, but I think there are the stories of a lot of other trade workers from Alberta, from other parts of the country represented," Roach said in their 30-second pitch on CBC Radio's Q.

This book is a window into so many critical conversations about the environment, about Indigenous land rights, about the student debt crisis and about gender relations.- Mattea Roach on why Ducks should win Canada Reads 2023

"This book is a window into so many critical conversations about the environment, about Indigenous land rights, about the student debt crisis and about gender relations. So there is an angle for every person to have their perspective shifted in some way."

LISTEN | The Canada Reads 2023 contenders speak with CBC Radio's Q:

Canada Reads is back for another round! Join us as this year's line-up of all-star books are revealed alongside their all-star champions.


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