For a YA novel, 500 pages can be daunting, however, invest in this one and your knowledge of botany, Ojibwe traditions and ice hockey will all be enriched. The main character, Daunis, has been described by the author as an Indigenous Nancy Drew as she roots out corruption in her community in this tense thriller.
The relevance of many of Angeline Boulley’s descriptions of Native American experience makes this debut stand out. Firekeeper’s Daughter does not shy away from debate concerning drug issues, compensation payments, reservation council politics or the clashing of cultures. Of her brother speaking at an Ojibwe event, Daunis comments:
‘The more Levi talks, the more I hear him doing that forced I am but a humble Indian routine. […] When he mentions being a hope for his people, I actually wince. The only thing missing is mystical flute music in the background and an eagle landing on his shoulder.’
Throughout the novel Boulley provides the reader with insights into what it means to navigate between communities. The focus is on what it means to be authentic and to belong.
Like Rudine Sims Bishop’s important image of books providing windows, mirrors and sliding doors into other worlds, Firekeeper’s Daughter provides the reader with a sliding door. ‘These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author.’ Significantly, Boulley also draws a curtain over sacred Ojibwe rituals out of respect for her community. Some things are sacred and the reader learns to understand this.
I’m sure many more stories can be drawn from Ojibwe culture and I look forward to reading more from Angeline Boulley, especially as Native American voices are under represented in contemporary fiction.
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