WOW Recommends: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Jacket art for Firekeeper's Daughter depicts two young Ojibwe women nose to nose in profile. Their skin tones vary slightly. Their profiles form the interior outline of a butterfly whose tail extends long enough to wrap around the title. The author describes the feeling of the art as purely 'Nish or Anishinaabek.Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, is a contemporary YA thriller about an Ojibwe teen living in the Great Lakes area who struggles to balance her identity, honor her community and pursue justice. Just out of high school, Daunis Fontaine halts her plans to go away for college and instead stay home to care for loved ones. Jamie, an intriguing new guy in town with a mysterious scar, captures her attention before pulling her into an FBI investigation. From here, Daunis experiences trauma to top an already challenging existence. This includes drugs, murder, rape, kidnapping and betrayal.

Daunis maintains a considerable toolkit including a complete understanding of the scientific method and strong relationships with her community and its traditions for her hero’s journey. Perhaps the most moving moment in Firekeeper’s Daughter occurs in the middle of the book when Daunis gets support from community elders for tribal enrollment. Throughout the story, elders provide these poignant moments in ways beyond the expected two-dimensional depiction of sweet grannies. They provide humor and intense action.

The WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors had the chance to talk to Angeline (rhymes with “fine”) twice, at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books and in private audience. She shared that Firekeeper’s Daughter is a coming-of-age book disguised as a thriller. While Daunis aims to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe and honor all the traditions and teachings that go with that, her identity also includes her brainy abilities, mastery of ice hockey, care for her French-Canadian mother and grandmother, and desire to unwind with other people her age. Many teens will see themselves in Daunis and her friends.

Firekeeper’s Daughter could be especially impactful to readers who are unfamiliar with the micro-aggressions Indigenous teens experience on the daily. Angeline carefully incorporates social and political issues in the book, including the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women. While these scenes bring the reader to deeper introspection about the ways in which normative practices harm tribal communities, the topics are written seamlessly into the narrative without weighing down the plot or pacing.

Angeline is a citizen of the Sault (pronounced “soo”) Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and served in the U.S. Department of Education directing the Office of Indian Education. Her planned follow-up novel centers on a main character who reclaims remains and sacred items from museums and private collectors to return them to their rightful communities–until one heist goes wrong. We eagerly await that story! -Recommended by Rebecca Ballenger, The University of Arizona

Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
ISBN: 9781250766571
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (BYR)
PubDate: March 16, 2021

Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media.

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