After finishing Firekeeper’s Daughter I knew I wanted to interview Boulley. Firekeeper’s Daughter captivated me from the beginning and by the end I couldn’t stop reading. I was so excited when the opportunity came to interview Boulley with all my burning questions immediately after finishing. And, without further ado, here it is!
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.
Daunis’s struggle with her identity and feeling torn resonated with me as a reader. How was this experience for you to write as a writer?
Daunis’s struggles mirrored my own. Writing brought up a lot of memories — my own Bigotry Bingo experiences. It felt cathartic, the opportunity to help teens going through similar struggles.
I loved how you examined this idea of “one of the good ones” in FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER. For those who haven’t read the book, can you talk a bit more about the ways in which you manipulate and explore this phrase in relation to Daunis’s story?
When someone says you are “one of the good ones” in relation to your Native identity, it’s a backhanded compliment that insults your tribal community. For Daunis, who feels like an outsider at times in her tribal community, it “others” her. When she overhears people making disparaging remarks after something tragic happens to another Ojibwe girl who also was “one of the good ones,” Daunis knows that if she were to make a mistake or fail to meet peoples’ expectations, they would speak of her in that same way.
You discuss this intersection between love and need in FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER. Did you always know how the story was going to end? Was this a conscious decision for you to include in the story?
Yes. I always knew the ending. Even when I tried writing a different ending, just to explore story possibilities, it wasn’t satisfying. The best endings are the ones that tear your heart into pieces, but your mind knows it couldn’t have ended any other way.
Can you talk about the concept of justice and what it means to Daunis? You speak about the ideas of changing our community and navigating internal change as well as external pressure in FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER. These were some of my favorite conversations as Daunis experiences and witnesses both.
Thank you! I love when Daunis tells Jamie that her community needs to be part of the solution. Ideally, justice and fairness should be two sides of the same coin. But for Ojibwe people, justice is complicated by things that are beyond our control. As Aunt Teddie tells Daunis, “Fairness is not one of the Seven Grandfather teachings.”
How did FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER come to you? I loved the ways you integrated Daunis as a character and the mystery she is uncovering.
When I was 18, a friend who attended a different high school told me about a new guy who seemed just my type. I was curious about him but we never met. Just before graduation, there was a drug bust at her school and it turned out that the new guy had been an undercover officer. I remembered thinking what might have happened if we had met and liked each other. Then, this spark of an idea came to me. What if it wasn’t that the new guy liked me, but that he needed my help? Why would an undercover investigation need the help of an ordinary Ojibwe girl?
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 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.