Canada Reads @ the Library: From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

Defended by Celina Loyer

You have to read this Canadian best-selling memoir which has won critical acclaim and numerous prestigious awards, even if you read nothing else this year. 

Should you read this book because it is the brutally honest life journey of Jesse Thistle, a formerly homeless Métis addict? 

Should you read these brief vivid chapters sprinkled with raw lyrical poetry because it’s written by a natural storyteller?

Should you read it because Jesse has suffered addiction, trauma, and loss, but chronicles resilience and redemption with humour and beautiful clarity?

Should you read it because Thistle is now an Assistant Professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto, and is both a Vanier and Pierre Elliot Trudeau Scholar?

Should you read it because it’s a first-hand account of growing up Métis in Canada?

Should you read it because the author has literally rewritten the definition of homelessness in Canada? (

Should you read it because Jesse, a self-professed romantic, refers to it as “a quest for love”?


But – 

if you do not know about Métis people, or;
if you don’t get why some kids end up in foster care, or;
if you don’t understand why some people are addicts and homeless, or;
if you haven’t experienced systemic oppression;

You should read From the Ashes because it will stay with you.

Once I began reading, I couldn’t stop until 2 am. As a Métis woman, I was first absorbed, then deeply affected, by his account of how a system set up to save him actually failed him. By intertwining our shared history and the current situation of Indigenous people, Jesse’s stories touch upon my own family’s stories. They are also the stories that Canada needs to hear to understand why so many Métis people end up misunderstood.

Through the struggles of his childhood and dark times of addiction and homelessness, I was touched by Jesse’s ability to make real the truth of how he was saved by love. Through the love of his wife Lucie, he is loved back into the circle of family and community.  His healing is a story of resilience of spirit that made me want to cry with joy. This kind of restoration is a story that any Canadian can appreciate.

Really, you should just read From the Ashes because it’s a damn good book.

It is most definitely the “One Book that Brings Canada into Focus”.

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