From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle

Published October 1st 2019 by Simon Schuster Audio

About the Book: 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 heart-warming 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

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

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

From the Ashes was written and narrated by Jesse Thistle, a Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. This book takes the reader on a journey through his life, from the time he was abandoned by his parents, lived in foster care, moved in with his paternal grandparents, was kicked out, lived on the streets and finally found his way. The dedication of this book puts Jesse Thistle’s life and circumstances into perspective, being an indigenous person in a colonialized country.

The pages of this book speak to the damage colonialism can do to Indigenous families, and how, when one’s Indigeneity is stripped away, people can make poor choices informed by pain, loneliness, and heartbreak, choices that see them eventually cast upon the streets, in jail, or wandering with no place to be. I dedicate this book to you. I walk with you. I love you. I know the loneliness and frustration you endure.

Some of the stories Jesse shared in this book are heartbreaking and I was in tears more than once. He didn’t know where he belonged, and constantly tried to find his place. Racism is terrible now, but it was even worse back then and the affects on someone’s life who is a target can tear someone down. His addiction took over his life for a period of time and he almost died more than once. I am amazed at his strength and resilience to survive and deal with his addiction. The realization that he would die if he didn’t change his ways, started him on his way, but it was family that supported him that gave him the hope that he could overcome his addictions. I pledged this year to read a minimum of 5 books about Indigenous people, residential schools and racism toward the indigenous North American people. This was a very different view from my last one. I recommend this book to those trying to educate themselves about the plight of the Indigenous people. It is a difficult read but one that is well written. Jesse Thistle also narrated this book and I enjoyed hearing him tell me his story.

Jesse Thistle is an Advocate for Toronto's Homeless Indigenous People |  locallove

About the Author: Jesse Thistle (born 1976) is a Métis/Cree author and assistant professor in the Department of Humanities at York University in Toronto. He is the author of the best-selling memoir, From the Ashes. Thistle is an advocate for the homeless. He is a PhD candidate in the History program at York University where he is working on theories of intergenerational and historic trauma of the Métis people. This work, which involves reflections on his own previous struggles with addiction and homelessness, has been recognized as having wide impact on both the scholarly community and the greater public.

Thistle obtained a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies with a Specialized Honours in History from York University in 2015. Thistle is a Trudeau Scholar, a prestigious award administered by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, a Vanier scholar and was awarded a Governor General’s Silver Medal in 2016. He has won numerous other awards, including the Odessa Award in 2014 and the Dr. James Wu prize in 2015 for his paper “We are children of the river: Toronto’s Lost Metis History.

Thistle’s use of academic research as a means of healing and understanding of his personal story as an Indigenous person growing up disconnected from his community and its history and his past experiences with homelessness, addiction and incarceration has formed the basis for his original and innovative research contributions. Thistle’s historical research has used his own past and identity as a way to examine the position of Metis people and culture within Canadian society, particularly around the idea of inter-generational trauma. The idea is that trauma suffered by previous generations can echo through the generations.

In 2019 Thistle published a memoir entitled From the Ashes. The memoir detailed his childhood, youth, and early adulthood, dealing with issues such as foster care, homelessness and addiction, and his quest for higher education that led ultimately to a professorship and love and emplacement. The book was praised for its openness in expressing loss and pain, and for its eloquence, especially as it relates the multigenerational impacts of colonization and trauma.