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The Outside Circle

Written by Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Illustrated by Kelly Mellings

  • 128 Pages
  • 9781770899377
  • 10" x 6.6875"



Publication Date May 02, 2015

Winner, CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature

In this important 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.

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 gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.

Winner of the CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature 2016

Short-listed for the In the Margins Top Fiction Award 2016


Patti LaBoucane-Benson
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 programs for Aboriginal offenders builds resilience in Aboriginal families and communities. She has also been the recipient of the Aboriginal Role Model of Alberta Award for Education. She lives in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

Kelly Mellings
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.


"I’m in awe of what you are holding in your hands. This is more than a graphic novel. It’s a teaching; it’s a reminder; and it’s a textbook of hard-won wisdom. It’s also a wish." Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed

"[W]ith the Outside Circle, Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings have brought Canada’s colonial history and its effects on Aboriginal people today to life in a powerful story." Prairie Books Now

"As brutal as Pete’s family’s story is, LaBoucane-Benson and Mellings’ sensitive, careful, honest presentation reveals a narrative that must be told, acknowledged, remembered, confronted, fixed." Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Centre

"LaBoucane-Benson’s long career working with young people in Pete’s circumstances gives the story a strong emotional resonance and a solid historical and educational framework." Library Journal

". . . the story becomes one of hope, not only for Pete, but for all aboriginal people healing from the intergenerational wounds of Canadian colonialism." Publishers Weekly

"A beautifully and powerfully told story." School Library Journal