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#1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads A Globe and Mail Book of the Year An Indigo Book of the Year A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discove #1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads A Globe and Mail Book of the Year An Indigo Book of the Year A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is. If I can just make it to the next minute...then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead. From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up. Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around. In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family. An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.


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#1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads A Globe and Mail Book of the Year An Indigo Book of the Year A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discove #1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads A Globe and Mail Book of the Year An Indigo Book of the Year A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is. If I can just make it to the next minute...then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead. From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up. Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around. In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family. An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.

30 review for From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way

  1. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    This book is extremely intense. I have multiple family members who have dealt with many of the things he has dealt with and it was just really hard to read. I literally felt sick to my stomach reading it, found it hard to sleep and felt overall pretty down. It is very heavy. If you or anyone in your family has dealt with addiction then be please be warned, this entire book is basically one big trigger. This honestly may not be the best book for you, although if you make it through, it may provid This book is extremely intense. I have multiple family members who have dealt with many of the things he has dealt with and it was just really hard to read. I literally felt sick to my stomach reading it, found it hard to sleep and felt overall pretty down. It is very heavy. If you or anyone in your family has dealt with addiction then be please be warned, this entire book is basically one big trigger. This honestly may not be the best book for you, although if you make it through, it may provide hope. It is very honest and very dark. I loved the perspective it gives. It really helps to show how such small steps can spiral out of control to the point where decisions are not just poor decisions but become about survival. Not everyone is given an equal chance starting out in life and it can be very hard to overcome the effects that has on a developing child's mind. Overall I loved this book. I found it hard to put down and I genuinely feel so proud of Jesse. Not many people who live the life that he lived are ever able to come back from it and achieve what he has. I applaud him for his courage. I'm sure the book would have been interesting based on content alone but the writing was very good as well. I do recommend this book. I thought it was amazing but it definitely will not be for everyone however, I suggest you at least try it out because it is so good.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

    Jesse Thistle has joined us in our Behind the Pages group for a spoiler-free Q& A You can find the thread to the Q & A here://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/21735270... From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle is a 2020 Canada reads finalist battling in Canada's "literary Survivor," for the one book the country should read. The one book to bring focus to Canada. From the Ashes is the first book I read of the 5 finalists chosen this year and I have to s Jesse Thistle has joined us in our Behind the Pages group for a spoiler-free Q& A You can find the thread to the Q & A here://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/21735270... From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle is a 2020 Canada reads finalist battling in Canada's "literary Survivor," for the one book the country should read. The one book to bring focus to Canada. From the Ashes is the first book I read of the 5 finalists chosen this year and I have to say I think it is a book that the world needs to read. Jesse Thistle shows us through his raw, honest and courageous voice his journey from his early years in Saskatchewan, being abandoned by his parents, living with his grandparents in Toronto, his self-destructive cycle of drugs, alcohol, crime and homelessness, to finding his way. It is an extraordinary, remarkable and inspiring story of survival, an inspiration to others, and a lesson in empathy. His story is ugly and beautiful at the same time. His voice is quiet and hopeful but powerful with his raw, honest dark realities as he shares his story. At times it was difficult to read his heartbreaking reality not only with his life on the harsh streets but with the stereotyped words said to him. Words that I often heard when growing up that now pierced my heart to see. As painful as it is I feel these are dark realities that can't be ignored and not seen. Even though Jesse becomes caught in a vicious cycle for years and it seems the odds are against him, we see his determination to survive and the heartwarming love and support he receives and his courage to find his way. I highly recommend this inspiring memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

    5+ outstanding stars! Easily earned a spot on my 2020 Favourites List. Raw. Eye-opening. Informative. Heart wrenching. Impactful. I am forever changed after reading this. One of the toughest, most honest and powerful memoirs I have read. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jesse Thistle for being brave enough to put his story out in the world. This is heart wrenching, yet hopeful. Upsetting yet inspiring. Heavy yet freeing. This extremely well written memoir gives the highly uncomfortable tra 5+ outstanding stars! Easily earned a spot on my 2020 Favourites List. Raw. Eye-opening. Informative. Heart wrenching. Impactful. I am forever changed after reading this. One of the toughest, most honest and powerful memoirs I have read. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jesse Thistle for being brave enough to put his story out in the world. This is heart wrenching, yet hopeful. Upsetting yet inspiring. Heavy yet freeing. This extremely well written memoir gives the highly uncomfortable tragic personal details of living through the brutal darkness of addiction and homelessness. There are many shocking, cringe worthy scenes that had me on edge and wondering if I could stomach reading any further. As uncomfortable as this story can be, it is one I am so glad I read and has easily earned a spot on my Favourites Shelf. I thought the way this story was written was brilliant and exceptional. Each chapter has a title that offers a glimpse into a certain memory or scene from Jesse’s past ranging from childhood to present day. The chapters are short, to the point and extremely powerful. Each one felt like a punch to the gut, leaving me feeling more sympathetic toward Jesse as his story progressed. In all honesty, I don’t have any experience with addiction within my circle of family and friends. Before reading this, I am shameful to admit, I may have even been slightly judgemental of people in Jesse’s type of situation (why can’t they get a job?). I thank Jesse for sharing his story which has opened my heart to beginning to understand how dark, deep and uncontrollable addiction is. I have a whole new outlook after reading this. What an extremely powerful, unforgettable story that I insist you add to your reading list. Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this phenomenal book!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    A fearless memoir of one man’s journey to find himself. He’s never afraid to look way below the surface at what drives his behaviour. He writes this with the full knowledge that he can’t rewrite or change the past to emerge where he does in the present. He moves from the enchanting whispers of ecstasy and hashish to the screaming nightmares of crack and meth. His story stands as proof that a raging addict can find a way through. This just might be the lifeline that struggling addicts and their l A fearless memoir of one man’s journey to find himself. He’s never afraid to look way below the surface at what drives his behaviour. He writes this with the full knowledge that he can’t rewrite or change the past to emerge where he does in the present. He moves from the enchanting whispers of ecstasy and hashish to the screaming nightmares of crack and meth. His story stands as proof that a raging addict can find a way through. This just might be the lifeline that struggling addicts and their loved ones need to read. He’s one brave soul.

  5. 4 out of 5

    MissBecka Gee

    While I appreciate Thistle sharing his story with the world, it didn't really work for me. The narration provided by the author was robotic and added nothing emotionally. A story with so much heartbreak and tragedy should have been more stirring. I think in print it would have been. The monotone narration made everything feel callus and uneventful. His life was neither of those things. Do yourself a favour and read this in print instead. While I appreciate Thistle sharing his story with the world, it didn't really work for me. The narration provided by the author was robotic and added nothing emotionally. A story with so much heartbreak and tragedy should have been more stirring. I think in print it would have been. The monotone narration made everything feel callus and uneventful. His life was neither of those things. Do yourself a favour and read this in print instead.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "If I can just make it to the next minute, then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead." FROM THE ASHES: MY STORY OF BEING METIS, HOMELESS, AND FINDING MY WAY by Jesse Thistle is a heart-wrenching memoir that reads like a novel. The book cover is beautiful! This is one of the five books chosen to be debated on CANADA READS 2020. I have two more to read, but FROM THE ASHES....is my favourite of the three I read. I highly recommend "If I can just make it to the next minute, then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead." FROM THE ASHES: MY STORY OF BEING METIS, HOMELESS, AND FINDING MY WAY by Jesse Thistle is a heart-wrenching memoir that reads like a novel. The book cover is beautiful! This is one of the five books chosen to be debated on CANADA READS 2020. I have two more to read, but FROM THE ASHES....is my favourite of the three I read. I highly recommend this book and agree with the following quotes. The first is a favourite author and poet, Katherena Vermette. (She wrote the novel - THE BREAK.) "The best stories are the ones that stay with you. FROM THE ASHES...Is an important one. The revolutionary kind. The kind of story that changes how you look at the world, that shows us how amazing human beings can be, so capable, strong, resilient, powerful." "A memoir of resilience, spirit, and dignity from a gifted storyteller…. When you plan to read this book, clear your schedule. It will hold you in its grasp and won't let you go, like a great novel." - Quote from Shelagh Rogers, host and producer of CBC Radio's The Next Chapter "You'll be drawn into the life journey of someone who's struggled so deep yet has risen up to share with us what it means to be human. A deeply moving read." - Quote by Clara Hughes, Olympian and author of Open Heart, Open Mind ################################################################## SPOILER ALERT ################################################################## "Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jessie's drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around. In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education - and newfound love - he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family. An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, FROM THE ASHES is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds." - Quote from front cover book flap ################################################################## I highly recommend this memoir that reads like a novel and give it 5 stars! ⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is a gut-wrenching autobiography about a man (Jesse Thistle) who descended into relentless depths. He was addicted to all kinds of drugs and alcohol – anything to get a high and to remove himself from the real world and what he could not face in himself. He was homeless many times. He stole from all kinds of stores to get food, money, alcohol and any commodity to trade for drugs. He was a prime example of someone surrounding himself by enablers who kept reinforcing his habits. Finally, afte This is a gut-wrenching autobiography about a man (Jesse Thistle) who descended into relentless depths. He was addicted to all kinds of drugs and alcohol – anything to get a high and to remove himself from the real world and what he could not face in himself. He was homeless many times. He stole from all kinds of stores to get food, money, alcohol and any commodity to trade for drugs. He was a prime example of someone surrounding himself by enablers who kept reinforcing his habits. Finally, after some unsuccessful attempts he kicked his addictions at a rehabilitation clinic in Ottawa, Canada. I think he realized he had reached rock-bottom – and it was either pull himself out of the addictions or die despairing and lonely on the street. Jesse Thistle gives us his background – he was raised at a young age (4-5 years old) by his grand-parents from his father’s side. His parents abandoned him when he was young, in fact he and his two brothers were removed from his father’s care because he was unable to look after his sons due to his addiction problems. He never saw his father after this. Apparently, he died virtually unknown, on the streets from being homeless. His mother’s life is a little evasive. Now and then she reached out to her sons, but there was a distance that was never overcome. I felt the authors’ family, particularly the grandparents who raised him and his two brothers were emotionally detached. They never spoke or confronted the real issues – like what happened to their son (the father of the three boys). I realize I say this being way outside of the sphere of their lives. The grandparents must be given credit for adding some stability and providing a home to the three boys. It is indeed commendable that Jesse Thistle has extricated himself from darkness and freefall. He also had a lot of help and we can see the value and the struggles that rehabilitation clinics and hostels undergo for their clients. In many ways the author has a lot to atone for – he hurt emotionally a lot of people through his robberies of liquor stores, Mom and Pop grocery stores, breaking and entering cars and homes, and letting down family and friends. During rehabilitation he became more aware of his ancestry. His mother is Metis and also his grandmother (father’s mother). He studied avidly and is now an associate professor of Metis Studies at York University in Toronto. I can only wish him well on his new life path. It’s quite a transition and shows that we should never give up on hope for a new day!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    From The Ashes, by Jesse Thistle, is a finalist in Canada Reads 2020. I was deeply moved by this autobiography. He paints an achingly sad and honest picture of a young man lost and self-destructive, compelled by abandonment, abuse and addiction. He shows us that homelessness is very real and that one can return from this cold, lonely, unforgiving world. His memoir demonstrates the power of love, life and resilience. Raw, Honest and Emotional! Jesse Thistle is truly an inspiration! I feel From The Ash From The Ashes, by Jesse Thistle, is a finalist in Canada Reads 2020. I was deeply moved by this autobiography. He paints an achingly sad and honest picture of a young man lost and self-destructive, compelled by abandonment, abuse and addiction. He shows us that homelessness is very real and that one can return from this cold, lonely, unforgiving world. His memoir demonstrates the power of love, life and resilience. Raw, Honest and Emotional! Jesse Thistle is truly an inspiration! I feel From The Ashes could easily win Canada Reads 2020.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    Bone grinding on wire: that is my morning cup of coffee, that is what wakes me up every day, and that is what reminds me that the fall from my brother's apartment window was real – and that I'm lucky to be alive. The pain also keeps me sober. It reminds me what it was like years ago when addiction and homelessness almost did me in. For that, and those harsh reminders, I am thankful. When it comes to memoir, redemption stories tend to make me feel good; and especially stories about people hero Bone grinding on wire: that is my morning cup of coffee, that is what wakes me up every day, and that is what reminds me that the fall from my brother's apartment window was real – and that I'm lucky to be alive. The pain also keeps me sober. It reminds me what it was like years ago when addiction and homelessness almost did me in. For that, and those harsh reminders, I am thankful. When it comes to memoir, redemption stories tend to make me feel good; and especially stories about people heroically overcoming challenging childhoods. From the Ashes looks like this kind of a feel good story – Jesse Thistle and his brothers were abandoned by their parents, raised by strict and unaffectionate grandparents, with Jesse going on to twenty years of drug addictions and homelessness before hitting bottom, getting an education, and becoming a professor himself – but this read left me a bit nonplussed. The storytelling is episodic – with many short chapters telling of incidents from Jesse's life without introspection or much linkage between them; this happened, then this – and I didn't find that satisfying until an endnote in which the author explains that this is how his memories (from deep youth and his drug-addled years) appear to him, “like fragments of light, flickers of a flame, shadows on a wall.” That seems an authentic explanation, but doesn't make the reading any more satisfying. And as pitiable as Jesse's street years were, I couldn't help but continually note how every negative consequence was the result of his own choices: Jesse's brothers, with the exact same upbringing, went on to become contributing members of society, while Jesse himself was lying and stealing and hurting himself and others for decades (when I read how Jesse taught others how easy it is to scam Social Services, over and over again, for a thousand dollars at a time in apartment “startup” money that they could then use to buy crack, I couldn't help but feel resentful: I acknowledge that homelessness is a serious issue in desperate need of resources and shudder to think of all that money up in smoke). Even those events that led to Jesse's reintegration into society – his battle to educate himself, the love and support of a stable life partner, and his rediscovery of his Indigenous identity – don't feel like they were given adequate attention: this happened, then this happened, and it's hard for the reader to see how one thing follows the other. Still, there is plenty of value in this read: So many of us recoil when we encounter the dirty and wild-eyed on the street and it's always valuable to be reminded that within that broken shell remains a human being; someone who just might eventually rise from the ashes if the right opportunities and motivations align. Grandpa's anger that day wasn't usual – it was the same rage I saw when he warned me about doing drugs after he told me about Dad's disappearance – and it scared me so much that I bawled in my room as Josh received the beating of his life. I lay on my bed and covered my ears with my pillow to hide from the sound of the rod thrashing through the air. In my head, I begged for Josh to cry out, but he kept it together somehow. I knew it was to show he was a man the way Grandpa liked, but that only made things worse. After what sounded like thirty more blows, Josh finally bellowed out in agony. It was a sound so sad it penetrated right to where I was hiding, right through the concrete foundation of our house. Jesse Thistle's first memories are of going berry picking with his kookum; his maternal grandmother (an “allotment Métis” who, with her husband, lived in a shack on undesirable public road allotment land) who sometimes watched her grandsons while her daughter went off with the boys' abusive father. Jesse's parents eventually split up, with his mother taking the boys and trying to make a home for them in Moose Jaw, but when their father later showed up and asked for the boys, the exhausted mother handed them over. He took them back to Ontario, but as a drug addict, he rarely had food for the boys, teaching them (3-, 4-, and 5-years-old) how to beg for change and steal food from the corner store and hide from anybody who came to the apartment door when he was away for days at a time. Eventually picked up by Social Services, the boys were put into the care of their paternal grandparents (this Grandma was part Algonquin, but Indigeneity doesn't seem to have been a part of her culture); and while they did provide their grandsons with food and shelter and discipline throughout their childhoods, this grandfather (who had himself been raised by a strict and abusive grandfather) had firm expectations and a quick temper. In reaction, all three Thistle brothers became brawlers in the neighbourhood and at school, but it would seem that only Jesse would be set on a path of habitual lying, thievery, and bullying. Even as his brothers were turning their lives around as teenagers, Jesse didn't apply himself in school and began partying and taking drugs; the absolute zero-tolerance rule that their grandfather laid down after the heartbreak of the boys' father's disappearance. When Jesse was found with drugs in their home at eighteen, his grandparents kicked him out and completely cut him off; over his next twenty years of homelessness and drug abuse, trips in and out of prison and rehab, Jesse received no support, visits, or contact with his grandparents (and very little contact with his mother throughout the years). And yes, the path Jesse travelled was a hard one, and I have no idea if he inherited more of his Dad's off-the-rails genes than his brothers did, but throughout, he chose this path and suffered that choice. There was a silence that came over my spirit, followed by what sounded like a gust of wind. The noise of the rave receded into the background, and I heard something emerge from my own core. My eyes pressed shut, I focused inward on that sound. There was a distant drum – louder, louder, louder still, until it vibrated every molecule in my being. The beautiful cry of Indian drummers rang aloud in every direction – from the north, south, east, west, up, down, over, under, beneath, within, and without. I opened my eyes and saw I was dancing alone on the flatness of the great plains. I was dressed in a plume of feathers, deerskins, a bustle, beads, moccasins, a rattle, and tassels. My legs rushed in perfect coordination over top of the grass, pressing and tamping it down, as vast fields undulated before me. The sun hung low as red clouds of dust were kicked up by my feet, filling the air. I danced and danced, moving this way and that, until my thirst for water and the rave seemed but distant memories of a life I once lived. I did find it very interesting that, more than once, Jesse would have these out-of-body Indigenous experiences; and not always while tripping on ecstasy. He once had a vivid nightmare about fighting redcoats on the prairies and was astonished to learn (many years later) that the details meshed with the Battle of Batoche, and that he was related to the famed Métis rebel Louis Riel and other noted resistance fighters. From the Ashes doesn't make an explicit link between Jesse's rediscovery of his Indigenous heritage and his blossoming into a man who feels his own worth after years of hurting himself (not in the way that Richard Wagamese does in One Native Life or Wab Kinew in The Reason You Walk), but it does note that it was while beginning to study Indigenous issues at university that Jesse was put on a path to becoming today's foremost expert on Métis history and Indigenous homelessness; he is the recipient of many academic awards and fellowships – after teaching himself to read while in jail. That is a feel good story, and I wish I could pinpoint what it is in the writing that left me underwhelmed. I am still thankful that Jesse Thistle shared his life story; this is the kind of honesty and insight that makes you hope that someday his lost brethren from the streets might also be redeemed. Four stars is a rounding up.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Abandoned to the foster system, taken in by grandparents then thrown out in highschool, Jesse Thistle ends up homeless and addicted on the streets of Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa. Spoiler - Jesse Thistle is currently an Assistant Professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto, a Governor General’s Academic Medal winner, as well as a Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Vanier Scholar. Knowing this, knowing that he makes it out alive, adds some much needed air to this memoir because on the page th Abandoned to the foster system, taken in by grandparents then thrown out in highschool, Jesse Thistle ends up homeless and addicted on the streets of Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa. Spoiler - Jesse Thistle is currently an Assistant Professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto, a Governor General’s Academic Medal winner, as well as a Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Vanier Scholar. Knowing this, knowing that he makes it out alive, adds some much needed air to this memoir because on the page there is no shortage of circumstances that sees this ending in a far more grim, frankly more dead, way. The memoir benefits from his clear prose and sharp editing as we jump from scene to scene. The matter of fact tone avoids easy sentiment - it never feels like misery porn or the nostalgic showing of scars. Thistle is nonetheless ruthless in his recounting; from a night consumed by the rhythm of the ragga jungle high on E and dancing for days until his nipples were open wounds, rubbed raw against his muscle shirt as if on a belt sander - to detoxing in solitary, bones vibrating in agonizing pain, shattering his frame until he felt like a pile of bloody talcum powder. I don't know why I'm a sucker for these breathless memoirs of youthful indiscretion and tragedy, it feels almost like a genre unto itself from Nico Walker's Cherry, to the troubled Million Little Pieces (both being made into movies) and I feel a bit like a salacious voyeur into another's troubled past. But I also appreciated Thistle's slight nods to his indigenous background that coloured the edges of this work and brings a tiny bit of magic into this redemptive arc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    Jesse Thistle's memoir is a readable account of his addiction, redemption, and his search for his indigenous roots. Written in an almost conversational style, From the Ashes details Thistle's life from boyhood to present day with all the bumps along the way. This is a harrowing memoir whose bulk is about life on the streets, living score-to-score, and the crime that buoyed Thistle's prolific substance abuse. Though the subject matter is difficult, it's message is one of hope for those in society Jesse Thistle's memoir is a readable account of his addiction, redemption, and his search for his indigenous roots. Written in an almost conversational style, From the Ashes details Thistle's life from boyhood to present day with all the bumps along the way. This is a harrowing memoir whose bulk is about life on the streets, living score-to-score, and the crime that buoyed Thistle's prolific substance abuse. Though the subject matter is difficult, it's message is one of hope for those in society all too often deemed hopeless. For those readers who were taken with Tara Westover's Educated, I think From the Ashes will scratch a similar itch for stories of redemption. I wish Thistle's book stretched on for a bit longer to tell the reader about his journey through academia, but I can imagine a book coming down the pipeline from the author that might explore those themes along with his research. A must-read for Canadians.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lhazin

    If you should read one book this year, read this. Jesse is a storyteller, a poet, a Métis scholar, a homelessness expert, and a warrior. His memoir “explores homelessness in a way that would escape them(housing experts)” otherwise. It is a human narrative about the intergenerational trauma of colonization, and the failure of our systems. Above all, it is a story about a man rising from the ashes and being capable of so much.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    This is a very moving memoir, in which Jesse Thistle relives his life in short chapters...espousing lessons he’s learned, errors he’s made, milestones he’s achieved, dreams he’s kept, relationships he’s broken and rekindled. The writing is straight forward and matter of fact. It is interspersed with heartfelt emotions, creative descriptions, ingenious metaphors, heart wrenching anecdotes. Memoirs are one of my favourite genres to read and this one is riveting in both its storytelling and its messa This is a very moving memoir, in which Jesse Thistle relives his life in short chapters...espousing lessons he’s learned, errors he’s made, milestones he’s achieved, dreams he’s kept, relationships he’s broken and rekindled. The writing is straight forward and matter of fact. It is interspersed with heartfelt emotions, creative descriptions, ingenious metaphors, heart wrenching anecdotes. Memoirs are one of my favourite genres to read and this one is riveting in both its storytelling and its message. Interspersed with the storytelling are a few of Jesse Thistle’s poems which are equally captivating. Abandoned as a young child, growing up often lonely, Jesse continued maintaining the bonds of brotherhood and family even when tested. Living with the unimaginable pain of homelessness and drug addiction he found a way to honor the lessons taught to him by his grandparents. Much of the storytelling bluntly delivers devastating narratives describing life in shelters, correctional facilities, or rehab, without dwelling on the facts as “oh poor me” but rather to enlighten and to display the author’s resilience, akin to the spiritual powers of his indigenous ancestors. Jesse at one time tried to deny his ancestral history, but has since learned to embrace it. Jesse’s story is really quite remarkable providing a complete about-face from where he was heading to where he ends up. He explains that he often lived through his challenges by managing only minutes at a time. The telling of this story will surely inspire others to reach deep into themselves and find something both worthwhile and worthy not only when they are facing difficulties but also when they are just looking for everyday answers to life’s questions. This book also focuses on the continuing challenges of our indigenous population and the systemic discrimination from which they suffer. A most enlightening read and a call to action for Canadians.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Absolutely incredible! Review to come.

  15. 4 out of 5

    ❤️

    Jesse Thistle's journey in life has been a challenging one. In From The Ashes he writes honestly and unflinchingly about the effects that intergenerational trauma had on him as a child and into his adulthood. And he shares his struggles with substance abuse, homelessness and incarceration. These are difficult, traumatic topics, but his writing is so accessible that he makes you want to stay with his words, to listen to his story. Of course, this is Jesse's story. But through his storytelling and Jesse Thistle's journey in life has been a challenging one. In From The Ashes he writes honestly and unflinchingly about the effects that intergenerational trauma had on him as a child and into his adulthood. And he shares his struggles with substance abuse, homelessness and incarceration. These are difficult, traumatic topics, but his writing is so accessible that he makes you want to stay with his words, to listen to his story. Of course, this is Jesse's story. But through his storytelling and the insights he shares, there's an opportunity to reflect, as a reader, on your own history and how it has led to the paths taken in your own life, and even your potential assumptions and biases. As for being shortlisted for Canada Reads this year, I am happy to see an Indigenous author on the list (we have three, actually!), but memoirs like this, that heavily focus on Indigenous trauma, while super important and worthy of a platform, are often the only Indigenous stories given such platforms, which may be fine for the predominantly white audience it caters to, but can be taxing and triggering to other Indigenous people. So while I'm glad it's been shortlisted and is seeing such a huge boost in the spotlight, I personally feel more inclined toward Eden Robinson's fiction that has been shortlisted.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Nikolits

    This is one of the best books I've read this year. I was fortunate to get an Advance Reader Copy because in my day job, (I'm a magazine designer), sadly more books come in than can be reviewed. But I'd buy this book and I highly recommend it. From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I read it every moment I could, on the subway and at lunchtime. That's the mark of a good book. It's unflinching self-reportage of the darkest moments imaginable to a person. And to a child. It was, at ti This is one of the best books I've read this year. I was fortunate to get an Advance Reader Copy because in my day job, (I'm a magazine designer), sadly more books come in than can be reviewed. But I'd buy this book and I highly recommend it. From the moment I started it, I couldn't put it down. I read it every moment I could, on the subway and at lunchtime. That's the mark of a good book. It's unflinching self-reportage of the darkest moments imaginable to a person. And to a child. It was, at times, hard to read but the writing is exquisite and Thistle never shies away from absolute self-honesty. I felt as if I were with Jesse Thistle every step of the way, such was the vivid strength of the writing. There wasn't a moment when I didn't want to reach out to him and help him but he ultimately rescues himself, which is the most important lesson of all. Yes, he had help and support and love but one got the definite sense that Jesse never wanted the life of an addict – he fought it and his demons as fiercely as they battled to keep him in the prison of addiction. If there is any redemption to the human condition it is that we can, indeed, rise from the ashes. Thank you, Jesse Thistle for this book. You're a wonderful writer and I look forward to reading more of your work because my feeling is that there are more stories to come. And kudos too, to your courage and determination.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    One of the best memoirs that I have ever read. I enjoyed the descriptive writing, the open nature in which Jesse Thistle discusses his trauma, addiction and the poetry which he places in between the different parts of his novel Jesse's story is one that will stay with me forever. Goodreads review published 27/01/21 One of the best memoirs that I have ever read. I enjoyed the descriptive writing, the open nature in which Jesse Thistle discusses his trauma, addiction and the poetry which he places in between the different parts of his novel Jesse's story is one that will stay with me forever. Goodreads review published 27/01/21

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emmkay

    It is absolutely remarkable that Jesse Thistle is now a professor at York University, after a rough start to life, dropping out of high school, and spending an extended period of time as a young man mired in homelessness, petty crime, and drug addiction. Merely summarizing it that way still fails to capture how truly terrible his experiences were - his account really made me think about what other people with whom we sometimes only have glancing interactions (or don’t see at all) are dealing wit It is absolutely remarkable that Jesse Thistle is now a professor at York University, after a rough start to life, dropping out of high school, and spending an extended period of time as a young man mired in homelessness, petty crime, and drug addiction. Merely summarizing it that way still fails to capture how truly terrible his experiences were - his account really made me think about what other people with whom we sometimes only have glancing interactions (or don’t see at all) are dealing with in their lives. The latter part of the book briefly deals with how he finally beat his addictions and found his current focus. Quite amazing, and I would have liked more of this. I appreciated how he returned in the final pages to write about his father, who was faced with the same problems and who, in the early pages of the book, seems so unrelatable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    I was excited to read this book because it had almost nothing but 5 star reviews, but I am not really sure that I liked it. It's a worthwhile read for sure, and well written, but I think maybe the structure of the book just didn't work for me. I really, really liked the last section about how he finally turned his life around and reconnected with his indigenous roots - I think I wanted more of that, and because it was such a short section it almost got lost. He clearly worked so so hard to chang I was excited to read this book because it had almost nothing but 5 star reviews, but I am not really sure that I liked it. It's a worthwhile read for sure, and well written, but I think maybe the structure of the book just didn't work for me. I really, really liked the last section about how he finally turned his life around and reconnected with his indigenous roots - I think I wanted more of that, and because it was such a short section it almost got lost. He clearly worked so so hard to change things, and I found it very interesting and inspiring how he reconciled with his family and learned about his ancestry, and that should warrant more than like 20 pages! The other thing that distracted me was I could never quite tell how much time had passed between chapters/memories. I know he states that due to his addictions a lot of his memories were blurry, I think it's also okay in a memoir to take a few liberties with exactly when things happened to help with readability. It was confusing to me when I wasn't sure if he was 6 or 10 or 15 in a specific situation, which sometimes felt important. Interesting book nonetheless and it seems that most people who read it are loving it, so maybe I'm just picky! I don't think anyone would regret the read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    This is yet another example of Can lit that is championed by the Canada Reads competition, where the author’s life story is tremendously powerful, altogether heartbreaking and inspirational, but the writing does not hold up as well as it should. Despite this, I did appreciate the rawness of Jesse Thistle’s memoir, and his willingness to be frank and honest about his experiences with homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental health and reconciliation. I walked away from this book with a renewed sen This is yet another example of Can lit that is championed by the Canada Reads competition, where the author’s life story is tremendously powerful, altogether heartbreaking and inspirational, but the writing does not hold up as well as it should. Despite this, I did appreciate the rawness of Jesse Thistle’s memoir, and his willingness to be frank and honest about his experiences with homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental health and reconciliation. I walked away from this book with a renewed sense of compassion, and also further convinced that the solution to Canadian society’s problems does not lie in the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Rather we should continue to invest in programs that will lift people out of poverty, provide compassionate treatment for mental health and addiction, and advocate for meaningful reconciliation and additional means of support for the Canadian Indigenous population.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aylan Couchie

    I don't often rate books on Goodreads but feel compelled to write this one because, one week later, I'm still digesting this read. I finished this book over the course of three days on a recent trip because I couldn't put it down. From The Ashes provides a powerful truth-telling of what far too many Indigenous children and adults endure within the settler state that is Canada. While the book is a heart-wrenching narrative, there were often tear-jerking and uplifting points of light, places along I don't often rate books on Goodreads but feel compelled to write this one because, one week later, I'm still digesting this read. I finished this book over the course of three days on a recent trip because I couldn't put it down. From The Ashes provides a powerful truth-telling of what far too many Indigenous children and adults endure within the settler state that is Canada. While the book is a heart-wrenching narrative, there were often tear-jerking and uplifting points of light, places along the way where Jesse finds his path through. Jesse's story is one of weathering hardships - the likes of which many Canadians will never know - but the inspiration readers will take with them after finishing the last page will endure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺

    What an incredible story of resilience. Jesse Thistle had such a rough start in life and ignored his indigenous roots through his struggles with addiction and homelessness. It is a remarkable sign of character how he has completely turned his life around and is now an assistant professor and PhD candidate at York University. His wife must also be commended, as Jesse's story is a great example of how everyone needs someone in their corner, invested in their triumphs and failures. I love how Jesse What an incredible story of resilience. Jesse Thistle had such a rough start in life and ignored his indigenous roots through his struggles with addiction and homelessness. It is a remarkable sign of character how he has completely turned his life around and is now an assistant professor and PhD candidate at York University. His wife must also be commended, as Jesse's story is a great example of how everyone needs someone in their corner, invested in their triumphs and failures. I love how Jesse is using his past to shed light on the historic trauma and modern struggles of indigenous people.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jaime Morse

    By the end of the book, my foot hurt. I had searing pain right to the bone towards the last few pages. I’m always impressed when someone takes the time, energy and effort to write a biography. I’m so proud of Jesse for rescuing his life. For taking up the help around him and for writing a poignant biographical piece about the inner workings of homeless and addiction from a first hand experience. I’m afraid I can relate. I’m glad I can relate. So much to regret. So much to learn from. The person By the end of the book, my foot hurt. I had searing pain right to the bone towards the last few pages. I’m always impressed when someone takes the time, energy and effort to write a biography. I’m so proud of Jesse for rescuing his life. For taking up the help around him and for writing a poignant biographical piece about the inner workings of homeless and addiction from a first hand experience. I’m afraid I can relate. I’m glad I can relate. So much to regret. So much to learn from. The person we are because of it all.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Barely 3 stars. Indistinguishable from basically any addiction memoir. The author's academic career sounds more interesting but was just the very end of the book. Family members in the story also sounded interesting, but were never fleshed out or given enough screen time. Barely 3 stars. Indistinguishable from basically any addiction memoir. The author's academic career sounds more interesting but was just the very end of the book. Family members in the story also sounded interesting, but were never fleshed out or given enough screen time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ❀ Susan G

    https://wordpress.com/post/ayearofboo... The hardships and lessons in From the Ashes linger in my mind. The book was a brutally honest account of the generational devastation of an Metis family impacted by the lasting effects of colonialism. Jesse and his brothers were abandoned by their parents, left in an apartment to fend for themselves and apprehended by the police before moving in with their grandparents. After a lifetime of neglect, abuse, addiction, crime and homelessness, it is quite rema https://wordpress.com/post/ayearofboo... The hardships and lessons in From the Ashes linger in my mind. The book was a brutally honest account of the generational devastation of an Metis family impacted by the lasting effects of colonialism. Jesse and his brothers were abandoned by their parents, left in an apartment to fend for themselves and apprehended by the police before moving in with their grandparents. After a lifetime of neglect, abuse, addiction, crime and homelessness, it is quite remarkable that Jesse Thistle found support and had the strength to deal with his addictions, complete a university degree, become an assistant professor and write a book that has been long-listed for Canada Reads! Living with his grandparents, Jesse just kept ending up in trouble, failing classes and navigated towards a life of drugs and crime. His stories of living on the street are shocking and harsh. His rampant use of drugs and lack of care for his own body is hard to imagine yet there is hope! This book would make an impact on high school students if they were to read and understand the pain and trauma that leads to addiction and homelessness. The Ontario Grade 11 English curriculum will be changed to an indigenous focus for 2020-21 and From the Ashes would provide great learning and perspective to students! They would read and discuss the author’s resilience, strength and the supports from family and his rehabilitation team that led him back to health. I am hopeful that it will make the short-list for the Canada Reads debates as I think it is a story that needs to be told. I learned a lot by reading this book and will never look at another homeless person the same! The world needs more understanding and less judgement and this book provides an education which will lead to compassion. For more information: https://www.cbc.ca/books/how-jesse-th... Also, check out his website and generous offer to skype with book clubs. My in person book club is excited to chat with him in April!: https://jessethistle.com

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael McLellan

    This aptly titled and courageous memoir was written by a man who struggled for years to come to terms with his demons and overcome the ghosts of a difficult childhood. Jessie Thistle's writing is spare and clean and somehow comfortable to read though a lot of the subject matter deals with difficult issues, including child neglect/abuse and drug addiction. There is despair in this book, but there is also hope and inspiration. An altogether moving read. This aptly titled and courageous memoir was written by a man who struggled for years to come to terms with his demons and overcome the ghosts of a difficult childhood. Jessie Thistle's writing is spare and clean and somehow comfortable to read though a lot of the subject matter deals with difficult issues, including child neglect/abuse and drug addiction. There is despair in this book, but there is also hope and inspiration. An altogether moving read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather~ Nature.books.and.coffee

    I thought this book well written and unputdownable for sure! It shows the dark side of abandonment, drug addiction, homelessness, and crime! Jesse is very courageous to share his story so openly and honestly. As dark and tragic as this book is, it leaves you with hope. Jesse overcame so many obstacles in his life, and with the support of loved ones, he has turned his life around. I highly recommend this this memoir, it's such a powerful read!! I literally flew through it! I thought this book well written and unputdownable for sure! It shows the dark side of abandonment, drug addiction, homelessness, and crime! Jesse is very courageous to share his story so openly and honestly. As dark and tragic as this book is, it leaves you with hope. Jesse overcame so many obstacles in his life, and with the support of loved ones, he has turned his life around. I highly recommend this this memoir, it's such a powerful read!! I literally flew through it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth McFadden

    The best book I’ve read this year. This memoir chronicles the life of Jesse Thistle, an indigenous man raised in Brampton,ON. After an early childhood of neglect and abuse, Jesse battles addiction and ends up homeless. The book is a moving story about the affects of trauma, coming to terms with your heritage and the pain of addiction. Find this book and read it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Penney

    This book is remarkable. What a wonderful story of triumph over adversity and a reclamation of personal power. It is absolutely inspirational.

  30. 5 out of 5

    JennieWithTheBooks☮️(◕‿◕✿)

    J E S S E T H I S T L E ... THAT NAME and YOUR STORY, are going to be remembered … for a very long time to come. “… I longed to be part of something again, to be known and accepted, to hear my name. No one ever said my name anymore…”(Thistle 287) This book of yours and the station at which you now find yourself at in your life, have such great potential to help others find HOPE, despite whatever drug or alcohol related struggles they may be going through. Words DO HAVE POWER, whether spoken or w J E S S E T H I S T L E ... THAT NAME and YOUR STORY, are going to be remembered … for a very long time to come. “… I longed to be part of something again, to be known and accepted, to hear my name. No one ever said my name anymore…”(Thistle 287) This book of yours and the station at which you now find yourself at in your life, have such great potential to help others find HOPE, despite whatever drug or alcohol related struggles they may be going through. Words DO HAVE POWER, whether spoken or written, to ignite(re-ignite) that “light” that we all start out with in this life. Yours came so very close to fizzling out many times over, but you SOMEHOW allowed yourself to finally be able to CHOSE to let go of your dark past. Real growth starts when you're tired of carrying your own shit around long enough, right Jesse?! Homelessness is such a serious and widespread issue across our country. One that us more fortunate souls are never forced to really think much about. You revealing to us readers your brutishly honest account of your life and it’s evolution through the foster care system, sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, thieving, time in prison, stays in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, suicide attempts and your list of ways that your demise was sure to eventually come, goes on and on and on. You managed to so clearly illustrate that when we’re left untethered from family and community for too long…we wind up looking for “HOME” WHEREVER we imagine we can find it. Some of us, as in Jesse’s case, don’t start out on our paths with the best of role models to emulate. Some of us, as in Jesse’s case grew up having people(maybe just one person) that they didn’t want to be like or didn’t want to wind up in some of the same situations that said role model put themselves in. Not all of us are dealt the right cards on that first go around, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be taught to reshuffle your deck for a better outcome. Sometimes you play that losing hand for years before you learn from others or eventually even from your own self to lay those self-destructive cards down. Your greatest test in life Jesse, seemed to be learning how to handle the people and situations that mishandled you. It took you a long time to figure this out but now that, that day has come, you’ve been able to tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you were going through and NOW, it quite possibly becomes part of someone else’s survival guide. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a copy of your book wound up on shelves in all of those shelters, rehab centers and even jails/prisons?! Hopefully every book store and library across our country also caries multiple copies of it as well. I admire people who choose to shine even after all the ugly shit they’ve been through. Keep on shining Jesse! Be the person who cares. Be the person who makes an effort, who loves without hesitation. Be the person who makes people feel seen. There is nothing stronger than someone who continues to stay soft in a world that hasn’t always been kind to them. And it seems like you love yourself a whole lot more than you did when you were young. Keep on loving yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, you’ll get stuck again chasing after the people who won’t love you either. Much peace and happiness to you and Lucie for all the days to come. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us in the hopes that it might focus our attention on being more kind and compassionate to all people, no matter the situations they find themselves in. 4 ½ Stars for FROM THE ASHES because through it, we can all learn to rise from and above our struggles. From your stumbles through the alleys of addiction Jesse, to your accolades of academia, it was a journey worth taking with you. As for the Canada Reads 2020 shortlist, I think this is an absolutely perfect choice for this year's theme since there are multiple topics within its pages that I think should be brought more into FOCUS for our great Canadian country. Still have the 4 others to get through but I'm hoping George Canyon does you proud championing your book Jesse. I'd love to see you win and be recognized for how far you've already come back from the brink of despair.

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