Review/ The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel

The struggles of two Aboriginal brothers are explored in The Outside Circle, a compelling graphic novel that centres around an all too common outcome

By Paula E. Kirman

ABORIGINAL people have a much higher rate of living in poverty, addictions, violence, and falling into the prison system. That is what centuries of historical trauma, like residential schools, have done.

The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel (House of Anansi Press)

The graphic novel The Outside Circle tells the story of two Aboriginal brothers, Pete and Joey, who live with their heroin addict mother. Pete is involved in a gang and kills his mother's abusive boyfriend in a fight. While in prison, Pete comes to realize the bad influence he has been on his younger brother, who also ends up in the system. Pete begins a journey of healing that centres heavily upon traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Spruce Grove-based author Patti LaBoucane-Benson is Metis and the Director of Research, Training and Communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA). The subject matter and story of the book was drawn from her Ph.D. research and dissertation which involves 20 years of research and work concerning Aboriginal men who are affiliated with gangs or incarcerated. Artist Kelly Mellings, who lives in Edmonton, co-owns the illustration, animation, and design firm Pulp Studios.

Illustrator Kelly Mellings (left) & author Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Both the words and the art in The Outside Circle are extremely powerful. While the genre will naturally appeal to teens and young adults, older readers who enjoy a compelling story will also want to check the book out. It is a relatively quick read with a lot of fact-based information on serious presented in a clear and accessible way.

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