Although being marketed as a book for young adults, I can assure you that this older adult was moved, inspired, and intrigued by The Firekeeper’s Daughter, the debut novel of author Angeline Boulley. An enrolled member of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Boulley immerses the reader in her culture through the eyes of six-foot-tall Daunis Fontaine, an 18-year-old girl of mixed race.
Daunis' mom is Grace Fontaine, the whitest and richest girl in town; her father was hockey god, Levi Firekeeper, a member of the Sugar Island Ojibwe Tribe. Daunis has inherited her father’s looks and prowess on the ice, but since his name isn’t on her birth certificate, she isn’t an enrolled Tribal member. Neither is her best friend, Lily, who doesn’t meet the minimum blood-quantum requirement. Both, however, feel closely connected to the Tribe.
Daunis had been ready to leave home for the University of Michigan, as a pre-med student, but changed her mind after her beloved grandmother had a stroke. Now the two friends are set to complete freshman year at the local college. But instead tragedy strikes, and Daunis discovers that drugs, in particular methamphetamine, are killing the people she loves. Evil has set up housekeeping in her community and the FBI asks for her help.
The author doesn’t shy away from the array of real problems that face this tribe, nor does her determined young heroine. What makes this book extraordinary is experiencing the lyrical quality of a life that honors Ojibwe traditions, and how Daunis is determined to live a modern and yet spiritual life. I’m predicting this book will be on many people’s lists of the best books of 2021.