Outside Circle
by Laboucane-Benson, Patti; Mellings, Kelly (ILT)

In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers &; both gang members &; surrounded by poverty and drug abuse, 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. After returning home one evening, Pete and his mother&;s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a violent struggle, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially maintaining his gang ties, a jail brawl forces Pete to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey and encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation through a traditional Native healing circle. Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author&;s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of Aboriginal men who are gang-affiliated or incarcerated.

Patti Laboucane-Benson is a Métis woman and the Director of Research, Training, and Communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA). She has a Ph.D. in Human Ecology, focusing on Aboriginal Family Resilience. Her doctoral research explored how providing historic trauma healing program. She lives in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. Kelly Mellings is an award-winning art director, illustrator, and designer. His work has appeared in comic books, magazines, apps, museum exhibits, and online games, and his clients include Microsoft. He is the co-owner of the acclaimed illustration, animation, and design firm Pulp Studios. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Pete, descendant of the Canadian Cree First Nation, is caught in a vicious cycle of gang violence, even as he single-handedly supports his younger brother, Joey. That is, until Pete's arrested for shooting his mother's junkie boyfriend, and his family is swept into the system. Pete, luckily, finds his way into the In Search of Your Warrior program, which "provides an intensive historical-trauma-healing process for incarcerated Aboriginal men." Exposed to his cultural heritage, Pete confronts his anger and shame and slowly builds a responsible life, gaining the opportunity to heal what remains of his family. While this is an ultimately hopeful story, a brief section of tragic statistics suggests that Pete's journey is not the norm. One of the story's greatest strengths is its practical, unsentimental tone, which makes Pete's successes all the more poignant. The realistic, polished art reflects this realistic mood but also makes striking, effective use of aboriginal spiritual imagery, highlighting Pete's growth and achievement. Though this may be a bit of a hard sell for many teens, it's ultimately highly rewarding. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

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