Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Patti LaBoucane-Benson

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Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Patti LaBoucane-Benson's The Outside Circle is a new graphic novel that follows two Canadian Aboriginal brothers working to overcome the poverty, gang violence and drug use that surrounds them. Pete and Joey have a heroin addict for a mother and her unstable boyfriend, Dennis, for a father figure. One fateful night, a fight between Pete and Dennis escalates irreversibly, tearing the family apart and landing Pete in jail.

Pete comes to see the effect his actions are having on his younger brother and works to turn his life around, using not only modern mental health techniques but also Aboriginal healing practices.

Kelly Mellings's artwork complements Patti's powerful narrative to make this an important addition to the growing conversation about Aboriginal experiences in Canadian literature. We're pleased to welcome Patti to the site today as part of our WAR Series: Writers as Readers, where we asked authors to share with us about their own reading habits and history.

Patti tells us about devouring library books as a child, the book that made her laugh out loud and a fellow Canadian graphic novelist whose work brought Canadian history to life for her.


The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:

A children’s science fiction book series that I took out of the St. Paul, Alberta Public Library when I was in Elementary school. I read all six books the next day and couldn’t convince my parents to take me back to get six more (it was Sunday and the library was closed).

A book that made me cry:

Web of Angels by Lilian Nattel. It’s a fascinating exploration into dissociative identity disorder — and I fell in love with every personality the main character had. There is so much to this story — it’s both horrific and beautiful.

The first adult book I read:

Firestarter by Stephen King. Scared the heck out of me, but I became hooked on the ‘horror’ genre for over five years.

A book that made me laugh out loud:

Douglas Coupland’s All Families are Psychotic. All of his novels are outrageous — but that one made me snort coffee through my nose. That is indeed a prodigious skill for an author to have.

The book I have re-read many times:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The story is at once a historical fiction (I learned a great deal about the Congo) and an exploration of a mother and four girls' experience of following their father to Africa to preach the gospel. One of the characters in particular has stayed with me for over a decade — I think about her often.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. It just seems like a monumental commitment to a complex, very long story. But, if I can find the time, I’ve heard it’s fantastic and worth the investment.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:

The Ender’s Game Series by Orson Scott Card. If I would have read this epic science fiction story about war, anthropology and intercultural relationships, I may have taken an undergraduate degree in the social sciences, instead of physical education. Maybe I would have figured out my career path and passion for social justice much sooner.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:

Chester Brown’s graphic novel Louis Riel was mind blowing to me. I learned more about our Canadian history from this black and white, very simply illustrated book than I did in the social studies curriculum on the subject. It was then that I though my dissertation research could be transformed into a compelling story that could engage the broader Canadian public into a conversation about healing and reconciliation.

The best book I read in the past six months:

Chez L’Arabe by Mirelle Silcoff. Not only are the short stories beautifully written, but the author was extremely ill when she wrote many of the stories. At time she had to lay still all but 15 minutes of the day. So she wrote 15 minutes at a time. That intensity and purpose is evident and makes for a great read.

The book I plan on reading next:

Where Did You Sleep Last Night? By Lynn Crosbie. Teen angst, Kurt Cobain and recklessness. What’s not to love?

A possible title for my autobiography:

I would publish it with two titles:
That’s right — I just said that
Oh crap — did I just say that?

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 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.

1 comment

very nice interesting story i love to read it.increase instagram photo likes

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