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

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  23,699 ratings  ·  2,402 reviews
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 jus
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
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Susan Young This would be a relevant book for teenagers in this time with homelessness on the increase. The language is accessible for just about any level of rea…moreThis would be a relevant book for teenagers in this time with homelessness on the increase. The language is accessible for just about any level of reader and topics cover addiction, homelessness, recovery, relapse, various systems within justice including the systems imposed by inmates, and touches on issues that are less covered in the news about Métis and how these issues both differ and intersect with others Canadians are more familiar with from the news. There was also a very strong “family” theme throughout the entire book which would be particularly relevant for students in social sciences and humanities courses in high school. The fact that much of it is set in Brampton and later Ottawa was an eye opener for me as many early scenes had him questioning his own background and colour something that many people could connect with at an existential level. (less)

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Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 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 h ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
For A spoiler-free Q& A with Jesse Thistle can be found Here in The Behind the Pages Group

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
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
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
My Canadian friends on Instagram firmly placed From the Ashes on my radar. It’s a compelling memoir of Jesse Thistle’s life, a finalist for the CBC Canada Reads awards, and the top selling Canadian author in 2020.

Jesse’s background is Métis-Cree, and his story begins quite early in his life. He’s living with his two brothers, as well as his parents who have a volatile and unstable relationship. Eventually Jesse and his brothers are placed in his paternal grandparents custody, and for quite some
Elyse Walters
Technically....Jesse Thistle’s memoir is rough around the edges.
His failures seem to matter less than his need to share them.
His voice uncovers devastating struggles of his development.
Parental neglect, abuse, and poverty are revealed—concealing a hidden world of monstrous injustice to innocent young children.
Josh, (5), Jamie (4), and Jesse (3), were left at home alone - starving.

Removed from their parents - the boys were moved into a foster care home.
Later- his grandparents took them in.
May 11, 2021 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars

This book was heartbreaking and what Thistle went through and overcame is highly admirable. He is a very strong person and I'm glad he found himself after all of what happened in the past. This memoir is raw and Thistle doesn't shy away from the ugly truths.

So my rating isn't regarding his life itself and his experience (needless to say, that would be very high but rating someone’s life is weird so let’s not do that) but rather the book and writing. the audiobook didn't work for me p
Oct 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
An immediate and important memoir from a Métis man who experienced homelessness and addiction after his parents abandoned him. Jesse Thistle writes about how even though he and his brothers eventually went on to live with his grandparents, their shelter and care did not prevent his later suffering. He ends the memoir on a note of hope about how he reclaimed his Indigenous heritage and set himself on the path to healing and success.

I loved the brutal vulnerability Thistle imbues in this memoir. H
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
"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
Oct 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn’t enjoy reading this book, nor did I find it particularly uplifting, and I say that as a proud rights-bearing Métis citizen.

I’ll get to my issues shortly, but I want to be clear that my problems do not lie with the author. Jesse Thistle is an exceptional person with a truly incredible story. He is a credit to our people and deserves recognition for what he has achieved and overcome, and for the quality of this memoir. I believe that as an author he succeeds in his goal of communicating th
Mikey B.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
3.5 Stars.

I applaud Jesse thistle for overcoming his addictions and making a better life for himself. It was definitely a harrowing journey to get there.
It’s hard to rate a memoir. The author’s road to recovery deserves a 5 Star. The writing to me deserved a 3 Star.
This book does shed light on how addictions lead to bad choices lead to homelessness lead to destructiveness. The author’s early childhood trauma escalated into his dependency on drugs. The drug crisis in our world is so devastating
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Matt 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 ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible!

Review to come.
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
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it
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
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 ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Lisa Nikolits
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Aylan Couchie
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jaime Morse
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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! ...more
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 ...more
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Jesse Thistle is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He teaches Métis Studies at York University in Toronto, where he lives. He won a Governor General’s Academic Medal in 2016, and was a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholar and a Vanier Scholar.

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24 likes · 5 comments
“Mom used to think I was mute, but I could speak fine, I just chose not to. My words belonged to me, they were the only thing I had that were mine, and I didn’t trust anyone enough to share them.” 18 likes
“I longed to be part of something again. To be known and accepted. To hear my name. No one ever said my name anymore. I never told anyone who I was for fear of being found out. For what? I didn’t know. I had forgotten years ago. I slumped forward on the bench and held my head in my hands, trying to remember how my name sounded. I spelled it aloud to myself. J-E-S-S-E. Jesse.” 9 likes
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