The Outside Circle
Written by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and illustrated by Kelly Mellings
Published May 2015 by House of Anansi
The graphic novel, The Outside Circle, written by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and illustrated by Kelly Mellings, opens with the words of the narrator, Pete Carver: “Let me tell you a story.” Pete’s story is one of anger, violence, loss, and despair, but it is also one of transformation, hope, and healing.
Pete is a young Indigenous man who has become affiliated with a local gang and is trying his best to care for his younger brother, Joey. When their mother, Bernice, sells what few belongings they have to buy drugs, Pete fights with and fatally shoots her partner. Pete is arrested and Joey is taken into the care of Child and Family Services. What follows is the story of three people trying to survive within a system: Pete becomes involved in violence and retaliation in prison, Bernice is now homeless and signs a permanent guardianship order that relinquishes her parental custody of Joey, and Joey runs away from his group home and is eventually arrested.
While incarcerated, Pete accepts the opportunity to participate in a programme called “In Search of Your Warrior” and begins the journey toward connecting with his Indigenous heritage, self-acceptance, and redemption.
Graphic novels impact the reader through both words and images. Kelly Mellings’ illustrations add a deeper layer to the meaning thanks to the use of recurring images and drawings that incorporate compelling visuals with historical details and statistics. The result is a unique and emotional experience for the reader.
Introducing the Author and Illustrator:
Watch this TVO interview with author Patti Laboucane-Benson about her reasons for writing The Outside Circle and her work with the “In Search of Your Warrior” programme at the Stan Daniels Healing Centre in Edmonton.
Read this interview with the author and illustrator.
Listen to this CBC Edmonton interview in which Kelly Mellings describes the process of depicting Pete’s personal transformation through drawings of his physical transformation.