The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel - Patti Laboucane-Benson & Kelly Mellings

In this ... graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.

Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.

I don't really know where to begin with this graphic novel. There's so much to it, and it's so incredibly important, I just want it to get into the hands of as many people as possible, adult or young adult. I actually kind of wish this was part of every High School curriculum in Canada, or that it would at least be in every classroom library.

This is not an easy read, but it's worth the effort. The Outside Circle is a timely and unfortunately all-too-relevant exploration of incarceration of indigenous people, and the incredibly loaded history that comes along with this. And not only is Canadian history fantastically integrated into the text, but the illustrations themselves bring to light an additional complex depth that many people are not fully aware of.

I can't recommend this graphic novel highly enough, and I just hope that it is a text which can help inform and enlighten young people through its excellent combination of story and illustration.

Highly Recommended


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