Saskatchewan-born author Jesse Thistle lands on Indigo’s list of best books of 2022

“You get a big platform. I want to inspire people to focus on social justice issues. That’s what I hope to get out of this list.”

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Indigo’s Best Books of the Year list recognizes Canadian authors and highlights 10 new books of the year.

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Selected each year by Indigo’s experts, many books on past lists have found greater success through exposure.

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This year, Prince Albert-based author Jesse Thistle took sixth place for his book of poetry, Scars & Stars. The poem candidly examines Thistle’s life and personal history, as well as the legacy left by his Metis ancestors.

Thistle, which explores his life in more depth than his first book, From the Ashes, says he hopes to encourage others who might benefit from the narrative therapy of writing poetry.

“It’s a road map or template for others to write about their poetic lives without being ashamed to talk about their scars and stars.”

He recently chatted with The StarPhoenix about his book and his personal experiences.

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Scars and Stars by Métis author Jesse Thistle ranks No. 6 on Indigo's list of the best books of 2022.
Scars and Stars by Métis author Jesse Thistle ranks No. 6 on Indigo’s list of the best books of 2022. jpg

Q: What does it mean to be on Indigo’s Best Book of the Year list?

A: Incredible – that’s the big list, right? This is what drives fall and winter. I don’t think a book of poetry has made that list in the past 10 years. I am extremely honored and grateful to be on their illustrious list.

You have a big platform. I want to inspire people to focus on social justice issues. That’s what I hope to get out of this list.

If they’re already a fan of mine, that’s why they’re on the list, and I really hope they try their luck with the other nine books. Because all of us are there for a reason.

Q: How does this book relate to your first book, From the Ashes?

A: Well, it’s like a reaction to my first book, I would say, just to show you where I am now — contextualizing or reconnecting within a healthy kinship network.

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I’ve been re-enacting the traditional father role with my daughter, so I wrote this post. I’ve written about what it is to overcome addiction, and that’s really missing in Ashes. To this day, I keep taking it out of the core of my addiction, unlike my first book.

Q: What made you decide to tell your story through poetry in your second book?

A: I wrote it in a romantic style, as the romantics wrote 200 years ago. They hone in on emotion and really try to tease it out with poetry and literature.

This is a rebuttal to my earlier style – Much deeper than my realistic prose. What you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg of my first book, and that’s how I felt. I’m showing you what love, positioning and healthy kinship are all about.

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It also helps me understand my trauma and the good joys and loves in my life so that I can appreciate them.

At the end of the book, I give the most important items. I don’t just offer it to the generations of readers who will read this book. I also gave it to my daughter because this book is about her and I want to empower her and help her write the poetry of her life so she can be the warrior I am not.

Q: What do you hope readers learn from your work?

A: Many of the people, places, and situations in life that I talk about come from people whose stories are rarely told, or even captured in art. They just get ignored, over and over. I want to give them some justice, so that the whole society will start to treat them as relatives, start to care about them, and build empathy.

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I saw a huge impact with my first book. What I’m most proud of is that people read it, and then they go and try to help addicted or homeless people in their everyday lives. They’re walking down the street, thinking about my book, and they decide to buy someone a cup of coffee and hear their story. That’s what I wish people would do.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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