Fans of Native American “own voices” literature and strong and independent-minded heroines will enjoy The Firekeeper’s Daughter.
Genre/Categories/Setting: Indigenous Culture, YA (or NA), Contemporary Fiction/Mystery/Thriller, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Diverse Reads
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Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine is biracial and living between two worlds near the Ojibwe reservation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Daunis plays hockey, dreams of studying medicine, falls for Jamie (a new recruit on her brother’s hockey team), and worries about the effect of drugs in her community. Life becomes complicated and Daunis puts her dreams on hold to be there for her family and community. After witnessing a senseless and tragic murder, Daunis finds herself caught up in a criminal investigation and reluctantly agrees to work undercover. With her knowledge of chemistry and native traditional medicine, she is a great asset to the FBI and helps with the investigation even when it involves those close to her. Daunis is committed to confronting the corruption, protecting her community, and standing with the strong Ojibwe women. The story is complex and relevant and filled with the language, ceremonies, and traditions of the indigenous culture.
Main Character: There’s lots to admire about Daunis who is deeply connected with her heritage but also feeling on the outside of the white and Native American communities because she’s biracial. Daunis is a tough competitor on the hockey rink, fearless and smart in her undercover work, vulnerable in her complicated relationship with Jamie, and loyal to her family. Because Daunis is eighteen and dealing with trauma and life-threatening problems, this story easily bridges the New Adult category. Daunis is wise and her actions to help save/protect her community are inspirational for all young adults.
Plot: Even though the main character is well drawn, the story is also plot driven (especially in the second half) with plenty of mystery, intrigue, and danger. There’s a lot going on in the story including the drug epidemic, family dynamics, dangerous undercover work, and community concerns. It’s my impression that the story is medium to fast paced. It’s definitely multi-layered, gritty and page-turning!
Themes: Thought-provoking themes include family loyalty, the leadership of elder female family members, complicated friendships, grief, risky romance, sexual assault, trust, authority of federal government/tribal authority, racism, addiction, women helping women, and violence against women. Author’s Message: I appreciate the author’s own voice and authentic story. I feel like her main message highlights the treatment of Native American women, their voices, and actions.
The Ending: I’m a huge fan of satisfactory endings and an ending can make or break the story for me. I think the ending here is a bit rushed (there’s a lot to tie up). However, for such a realistic and complicated story, I think a realistic ending is in order. I’ve spend some time recently posting about “endings” here and here. I think the ending in Firekeeper’s Daughter is handled realistically and left room for HOPE.
***May contain SPOILERS***
Content Considerations: If this were a movie, it would be rated R. Trigger warnings include sexual assault, grief, murder, abuse, addiction, some language and teenage crude humor, some sexual content.
Recommended: I’m recommending Firekeeper’s Daughter for fans of Native American “own voices” literature, for mature and older YA and NA audiences who enjoy riveting reads, for readers who are concerned about the drug problem, for those who love stores with a strong and independent-minded heroine, and for book clubs.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Angeline Boulley
Angeline Boulley is 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 is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Angeline lives in southwest Michigan, but her home will always be on Sugar Island. Firekeeper’s Daughter is her debut novel.
Is Firekeeper’s Daughter on your TBR or have you read it?
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