The Lorenzo Reading Series gets graphic with The Outside Circle

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last Tuesday, UNBSJ’s Lorenzo series hosted author Patti LaBoucane-Benson and illustrator Kelly Mellings, who were promoting their graphic novel The Outside Circle in the Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre.

Winner of CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature and Short-listed for the In the Margins Top Fiction Award in the same year, The Outside Circle is the story of  “two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, [trying] to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.”

Patti LaBoucane-Benson is “a Métis woman and the Director of Research, Training, and Communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta (NCSA)” and “has a Ph.D. in Human Ecology, focusing on Aboriginal Family Resilience” and whose research provides the basis for most of the book.  Kelly Mellings is “an award-winning art director, illustrator, and designer.” Both live and work in Alberta, and have come together to produce the evocative graphic novel, The Outside Circle.

A rather unlikely pairing, LaBoucane-Benson and Mellings combined their research and artwork to send a message that might otherwise go unread by the general public in an obscure PhD thesis. The novel deals with the all-too-real issues of violence, incarceration, and cultural erasure in the cases of Aboriginal peoples, with an emphasis on Aboriginal young men.

Balancing their presentation with factual and thought-provoking studies of Aboriginal life rooted in both in the present and past, LaBoucane-Benson displayed during her talk the over-representation of Aboriginal men, women, and children within social systems in every province, as well as the perennial injustices that continue to be an issue today.

Mellings then provided insight into his drawing process, revealing the stages of illustrating and the particular tone that both authors wanted to set with their book. Both presentations provided an interesting look into the process and research behind the book.

Jessica Raven, who attended last Tuesday’s reading, was impressed with the structure of the event. “I thought that their presentation style, rather than just doing a standard reading, was really great. Patti’s discussion about the issue of Aboriginal treatment provided some great context for the book, and I loved how Kelly explained his process. […] Their presentation enabled us all to leave with a better understanding of their book.”

The Lorenzo Reading Series continues on October 24th with Bruce Meyer reading from Portraits of Canadian Writers and 1967: Centennial Year in the Ganong Hall Lecture Theatre at 7:00 pm.