Firekeeper’s Daughter, the debut novel by Michigan author Angeline Boulley, is poised to send ripples throughout the book market when it is released on March 16.
The Young Adult thriller follows the adventures of Daunis Fontaine, a Native 18-year-old living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, who, in an attempt to expose corruption in the community, goes undercover in an FBI investigation and uncovers more than she expected.
"It's thriller, it's coming of age," said Boulley, who described the novel as "Indigenous Nancy Drew."
After a bidding war among 12 publishers, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers of Macmillan Publishers secured the release through a deal rumored to be seven figures. Boulley said Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground Productions is also exploring adapting the novel for a Netflix series.
"Just saying it out loud, I am still like in disbelief. It's better than any dream I ever could have dreamed for myself," said Boulley.
Boulley is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and said growing up, she spent summers in the tribal community on Sugar Island.
"I would feel something special crossing the St. Marys River and being on land that I knew my family had cared for . . . for generations," she said.
The idea for the novel first emerged back when Boulley was a teen herself, when her friend told her about a new guy in town at another school who she might be interested in. Later that year, Boulley said, it was discovered that the new guy was actually an undercover narcotics officer.
"I remember thinking at 18 years old, 'what if I'd been in classes with him, what if I liked him, what if he liked me?' And then really that spark that started this whole story was what if it wasn't that he liked me, but that he needed my help," she said.
That's when the writing journey began. Boulley said she's been writing the story of Daunis Fontaine for about 10 years.
"I would get up before 5 in the morning and I would write for a few hours before I would go to my day job," said Boulley.
Her last day job was at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. where she worked as the Director for the Office of Indian Education. She is now back in Michigan, living in New Buffalo, spending time near her parents.
Her father, Boulley said, is a firekeeper, which means he strikes ceremonial fires for cultural ceremonies and special activities that go on in the tribal community.
My dad reading the dedication of my #debutnovel #FirekeepersDaughter (before I sign & ship off to @birchbarkbooks) We both 🥲#NativeTwitter #Ojibwe #Anishinaabe #IndigenousAuthors #BookTwitter #MichiganAuthor #saultstemarie #ReadNative21 #saulttribe #NativeLiterature #NishKwe pic.twitter.com/iUk1SYi3lS— Angeline Boulley (@FineAngeline) February 27, 2021
Throughout the novel, Boulley said some of the complexities of Native American culture are woven into the story line, and she hopes that while people may buy it for its beautiful cover or thriller tagline, that they also come away from it learning more about her community.
"I hope that teens, particularly biracial teens, really I hope that they take an interest in the book and see something of themselves in the story, and that things that maybe they felt like other people treat as obstacles to be overcome . . . that actually those are their superpowers," she said.
As for her next novel, Boulley said if this book is being described as "Indigenous Nancy Drew," then the next book she is writing would be described as "Indigenous Lara Croft," where the main character is stealing back ancestral remains from museums and private collectors to return home when things take a turn.
To find out more about Angeline Boulley and Firekeeper’s Daughter, click here.