cover image Crude: A Memoir

Crude: A Memoir

Pablo Fajardo, Sophie Tardy-Joubert, and Damien Roudeau, trans. from the French by Hannah Chute. Graphic Mundi, $19.95 (136p) ISBN 978-0-271-08806-8

The pollution of Indigenous Ecuadorian land by American oil companies—described here as the “Amazonian Chernobyl”—propels the activism at heart of this visually stunning graphic memoir, which is part horror story, part urgent manifesto. Fajardo, one of 10 children from a poor family, travels from the Pacific Coast to find work in Lago Agrio, an oil-drilling boom town built by Texaco. In addition to hard labor, he finds both the land and human beings are treated as dumping ground. Supported by progressive Franciscan fathers, Fajardo goes to law school so he can hold Chevron (which owns Texaco) accountable for the destruction it leaves upon its 1993 departure. The seven-year, $9 billion case is won, only for the plaintiffs to face years of violent retribution, corruption, and nonpayment. As an afterword by Amnesty International underscores, multinational corporations slither between jurisdictions, getting away with literal murder (cancer skyrockets among locals who drink polluted water). Timelines and maps clarify the issues, and though the legal nuances are dense, the power of the testimony comes from Fajardo’s narrative and Roudeau’s impressionistic depictions of the Amazonian tapestry and inhabitants. Though UN legislation offers glimmers of hope, Fajardo admits that “after 25 years of fighting, I’m starting to think justice is a fiction, a nice story to tell children.” Readers will root for Fajardo’s account to herald meaningful change. (Apr.)