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The outside circle
2015
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Summary

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.

Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Gr 10 Up-Pete, an aboriginal teen from Canada, has had a hard life. His mother is a junkie, and his mother's boyfriend is abusive. Pete's girlfriend has just told him she's pregnant, and like his father before him, Pete abandons her and rejects his unborn child. Pete's part of a gang that takes advantage of his rage against the world: he's the muscle who makes sure customers pay their debts. In a confrontation with his mother's boyfriend, Pete lashes out, killing the man. He's arrested and sent to prison, where racial conflict still drives his life. Meanwhile, Pete's little brother is at the mercy of a group home where he faces his own challenges, and life in a gang appears to be the only way to survive. After an altercation in prison, Pete is offered an opportunity to be a part of an intensive historical-trauma rehabilitation program called In Search of Your Warrior. In this program, Pete has the opportunity to face his past and the wrongs done to his ancestors in order to heal and find his path. The artwork in this book adeptly conveys the contrast between wearing a mask of rage and finding one's true path. The illustrations are interspersed with historical details that explain the trauma to the aboriginal people in Canada, while the story outlines a pathway to healing. The authentic, rage-filled language is edited out with symbols, making it more accessible to slightly younger readers, but the emotionally challenging narrative is more appropriate for older readers. VERDICT A beautifully and powerfully told story.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
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.--Karp, Jesse Copyright 2010 Booklist
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