powerful debut book on Native American community
TW: sexual assault, death, teenage murder, drug abuse, weapon abuse, grief, and loss.
The books that are enshrined in the golden letters in history are the ones that impact us beyond its powerful storyline. Firekeeper’s Daughter is one of such books. While the primary storyline follows Daunice, a mixed teenager who goes undercover as an FBI agent in order to find out the mystery behind the series of drug-related deaths, the book goes beyond that.
It is richly layered with multiple stories laid on top of each other. The author, who herself belonged to the Ojibwe community, shared in detail about her culture, rituals, and ceremonies. It would be very wrong to take this book solely as the representative of the Native Americans because it talks about a very specific community that is Ojibwe. The author went into detail as she narrated the ceremonies, regalia, rituals, and how they are performed with sacred chanting. She rightly puts how the tradition varies across the length and breadth of the country. Talking about the country, the book narrated how the international border divided people thus disrupting the cultural bonding.
Although, like I have said earlier that the primary plot is murder-mystery-thriller, it’s also a social commentary on how drug abuse is a major issue among minorities. That is how sometimes the unfortunate children from underprivileged backgrounds or from dysfunctional families fall prey to the hands of powerful, wealthy adults. Within almost 500 pages the author gave us a multifaceted view of a growing adult. From the love shared in a family, community to brotherhood and leadership qualities that one develops through sports, hockey being the focus here. It shares a painful tale of charming Jamie who goes through an identity crisis for not knowing his tribe, which in fact sheds light on the horrific history of “educating” the Native American children by ripping them apart from their families, bringing them into boarding schools, forbidding them from speaking their language. Language plays an important role in a culture so it does in this book, along with all the folklore and legends, the firekeeper’s daughter is an experience to immerse into.
This review would be incomplete if I don’t talk about the fact that the culture and tradition are often rudely reduced to mere aesthetic by outsiders and pathetic racist society which is so arrogant and ignorant. We often see how sacred symbols or objects, like dream catchers, are used as decorative pieces or tattoo! Completely disregarding its cultural importance, which is nothing but infuriating. The book is one of those modern masterpieces and something that teaches history, social norms in the pretext of storytelling. Minorities have to put extra effort to not let their culture die. A homogenous, one cultural society will be the downfall of humanity.
ABOUT THE BOOK
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation. Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she'll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
Firekeeper's daughter by Angelina Boulley is published by Rock the Boat and can be ordered here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She gained attention from the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Program. Angeline was the former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Her agent is Faye Bender at The Book Group. Firekeeper's Daughter has been optioned for a Netflix series by the Obamas' Higher Ground production company.
This post is sponsored by HarperCollins India.