Unreserved

Ojibwe author's debut novel catches attention of the Obamas

Firekeeper’s Daughter is a YA mystery thriller that follows Daunis Fontaine. Daunis is a young mixed-blood woman who struggles to keep one foot in each world she lives in.   
Angeline Boulley's debut novel, "Firekeeper's Daughter," is already attracting big-name supporters, including the Obamas and Reese Witherspoon's book club. (Macmillan, Amber Boulley)

Growing up with mixed heritage and off the reservation, Angeline Boulley always felt like she didn't fit in.

Years later, that difference would become the inspiration for her first book. 

"I think that probably was the origin of it, this search for identity when you don't feel like you quite belong," Boulley told Unreserved host Falen Johnson. 

Firekeeper's Daughter is a YA mystery thriller that follows Daunis Fontaine. Daunis is a young mixed-blood woman who struggles to keep one foot in each world she lives in.   

Daunis is an average teen who likes hockey, hanging out with her best friend and going to the powwow. 

I wanted to tell a story that felt purely Nish [Anishinaabe].- Angeline Boulley

But when tragedy strikes, she finds herself undercover, working alongside the FBI to uncover the source behind a lethal drug in her community.

In writing the novel, Boulley's chance meeting with a professor was instrumental in helping her write about worlds she hadn't experienced firsthand.

"I learned how to make meth and learned how to spot clandestine meth labs," said Boulley.

In her research that spanned 10 years, Boulley also connected with a retired Indigenous FBI agent and a retired IRS agent. 

But the heart of Firekeeper's Daughter is in Ojibwe culture. 

The book has now been optioned by the Obamas' Higher Ground Productions, to be developed into a Netflix series. 

"It wasn't until the announcement officially was made that it felt real," said Boulley about the series. "It's just been so exciting that I can finally talk about it." 

Reese Witherspoon also selected Boulley's novel for her book club as the YA pick for spring. 

With all this big-name excitement around her debut novel, Boulley is eager to bring more Indigenous stories to the world. 

"Identity. It ties to the language, the land and our families," Boulley said. 

"I wanted to tell a story that felt purely Nish [Anishinaabe]."

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