Sask.-born author Jesse Thistle makes Indigo’s 2022 best books list

“You’re given a big platform. I want to inspire people to social justice issues. That’s what I’m hoping for from this list.”

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Indigo’s Best Books of the Year list celebrates Canadian authors, highlighting 10 of the year’s new books.

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Selected by Indigo’s experts each year, many of the books on past lists have gone on to achieve greater success from the exposure.

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This year, author Jesse Thistle from Prince Albert received the No. 6 position with his poetry book Scars & Stars. The poetry examines Thistle’s life and personal history and the legacy of his Métis ancestors with open honesty.

Exploring his life more deeply than he did with his first book, From the Ashes, Thistle said he hopes to encourage others who might benefit from the narrative therapy of writing poetry.

“It’s a roadmap or template for others to write the life of their poetry and not be ashamed to talk about their scars and their stars.”

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

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Scars & Stars by Métis author Jesse Thistle is No. 6 on Indigo’s Best Books of the Year list for 2022.
Scars & Stars by Métis author Jesse Thistle is No. 6 on Indigo’s Best Books of the Year list for 2022. jpg

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

A: That’s incredible — it’s the big list, right? This is the one that drives the fall season and winter season. And I don’t think a poetry book, in the last 10 years, has been included on that list. I am just completely honoured and grateful to be on their illustrious list.

You’re given a big platform. I want to inspire people to social justice issues. That’s what I’m hoping for from this list.

If they’re fans of mine already, and that’s what brought them to the list, I would really hope that they would take a chance on the other nine books. Because there’s a reason all of us are there.

Q: How does this book connect 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 — contextualized or reconnected in healthy kinship networks.

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I’ve been reclaiming my traditional role as a father with my daughter, so I wrote about that. I wrote about what it is to overcome addiction, and that was really missing from From the Ashes. I take it from the heart of my addiction all the way up until today, which is different than my first book.

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

A: I wrote it in a romantic style, the way that romantics wrote 200 years ago. They honed in on emotion and really tried to tease that out with poetry and literary works.

It’s kind of a retort to my earlier style — far deeper than my realist prose. You’re seeing the tip of the iceberg with my first book, and this is all the underneath — how I feel. I’m showing you what love and placement and healthy kinship looks like.

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It also helps me make sense of my traumas as well as the good joys and loves in my life so that I can appreciate them.

At the end of the book, I give away the most important item. I’m not only giving that to the generations of readers that will read this book. I’m also giving 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 that I wasn’t.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your writing?

A: A lot of the people and places and situations in life that I talk about are from the class of people that rarely have their story told, or are even captured in art. They’re just overlooked, over and over and over. I want to do them a little justice, so that society as a whole starts to see them as relatives, and starts to care for them and build empathy.

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I look at the great effect that my first book had. What I’m proudest of, is that people read it and then they went and tried to help people with addictions or who are homeless, in their everyday lives. They’re walking down the street, they think of my books and they decide to buy someone a coffee and listen to their story. That’s what I’m hoping people will do.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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