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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reader's Diary #1365- Patti LaBoucane-Benson (writer), Kelly Mellings (artist): The Outside Circle

The Outside Circle, by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, tells a story of Pete, a young Cree man, whose life seems to be going off track. He's abandoned a girl who he's gotten pregnant, he's involved with a gang, and to top it off, he murders his heroin addicted mother's boyfriend. However, things finally start turning around when he is introduced to the In Search of Your Warrior Program. This program, which exists in real life and which author Laboucane-Benson has been instrumental in overseeing, involves historical awareness, indigenous spirituality, and other researched, successful counseling approaches.

While at times The Outside Circle could be didactic, it was largely offset with honesty and artistic flourishes. Pete's life is not pretty and LaBoucane-Benson doesn't shy away from harsh realities. Swearing is tampered down somewhat with comic cursings (i.e., F#@$), making it more likely to be used in schools, I suppose, but there's also a lot of violence depicted. Personally, I think it was important to show this.

The artistic approaches came courtesy of both LaBoucane-Benson and artist Kelly Mellings. One favourite and powerful scene comes early in the book when Pete's mother is signing a "Permanent Guardianship Order" for her younger son, Pete's brother Joey, to be taken into the custody of Social Services. Instead of the wording one might expect on such a document, it instead details historical legacies which have contributed to this scene: residential schools and the '60s Scoop.

Also, Mellings makes much use of masks as a symbol, a theme that carries throughout the book, until finally explained near the end. It's a powerful and compelling image.

Ultimately, The Outside Circle is a story of hope, offering an insight to a program that may help heal the lives of many in need.

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

I'm quite looking forward to this one; I don't recall having heard even one negative comment about it!