Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter


Angeline Boulley

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Firekeeper’s Daughter Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper’s Daughter. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Angeline Boulley

Angeline Boulley is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, where Firekeeper’s Daughter takes place. Her father is a traditional firekeeper (a person who strikes ceremonial fires). After graduating from Central Michigan University, Boulley held several jobs related to Native education, including serving as the Director for the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Firekeeper’s Daughter, which took her about a decade to write, is Boulley’s first novel, and it was published in 2021 to great critical acclaim. She received support to write the novel from the organization We Need Diverse Books; she participated as a mentee in their mentorship program in 2019. Though she no longer lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Boulley still lives in Michigan.
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Historical Context of Firekeeper’s Daughter

In interviews, Boulley has said that she set Firekeeper’s Daughter in the early 2000s for several reasons. First, early-aughts GPS and cellphone technology was such that it was plausible, for instance, to have Daunis and Jamie fall totally off the grid on Sugar Island, due to there not being many cell towers yet. During this time, tribal casinos and per-cap payments were particularly lucrative, allowing Boulley to explore the impact of the per-cap payments in the novel. Boulley also notes that it was during this time period that methamphetamine production exploded in the United States—meth was, at this time, overtaking most other hard drugs in popularity. Additionally, Boulley references the early stages of the opioid epidemic in the United States, which began in the 1990s as doctors began prescribing more opioids (like oxycodone, which Daunis mentions by name) and presenting them as safe and non-addictive. More generally, though, Boulley has said that she wanted to write a story that presented American Indians in the modern day, rather than presenting them as figures that existed in the past and no longer exist. There are more than 500 tribes and nations registered with the U.S. government (and many more that aren’t formally recognized), each with their own traditions, belief systems, and enrollment rules. As Daunis notes, American Indians (and Indigenous Canadians as well) still suffer from the trauma that the U.S. government inflicted on them through colonization and creating the reservation system. Daunis also mentions the residential school system several times, which was a system of boarding schools that sought to assimilate Native children into mainstream white culture—while forcibly removing them from their families and forbidding them from speaking their native languages and practicing their belief systems. Children in the schools were often abused and sometimes disappeared. Recent headlines have reported discoveries of mass, unmarked graves near residential schools, which the Interior Department is investigating.

Other Books Related to Firekeeper’s Daughter

Boulley cites several books and authors as particularly impactful on her own writing. She’s said she admires other Native writers in Canada and the U.S., like Eden Robinson (Trickster) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Hearts Unbroken). It’s also possible to read nods to Canadian author Cherie Dimaline in Firekeeper’s Daughter. Dimaline’s debut novel, The Marrow Thieves, is a post-apocalyptic novel in which non-Native people have lost the ability to dream, and the residential school system has been resurrected to facilitate harvesting bone marrow from Native people, who can still dream. Firekeeper’s Daughter is also one of many novels that explores how youth sports can create situations ripe for abuse, entitlement, and a lack of accountability among young players and adult coaches, facilitators, and fans alike. Fredrik Backman’s Beartown focuses on hockey in Sweden, while the Australian novel The Story of Tom Brennan by J. C. Burke portrays youth rugby. Within the novel itself, Granny June adores author James Michener, who was known for sweeping multi-generational epics such as Hawaii and Tales of the South Pacific. Daunis also reads James Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, quotes from (though she hasn’t read) The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and avoids reading Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Emma) altogether.
Key Facts about Firekeeper’s Daughter
  • Full Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
  • When Written: 2010–2020
  • Where Written: Michigan
  • When Published: 2021
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel, Thriller
  • Setting: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, 2004
  • Climax: Daunis and Ron return to the trailer on Sugar Island and rescue Jamie.
  • Antagonist: Travis Flint is the initial antagonist, but Daunis discovers many others over the course of the novel including Grant Edwards, Mike Edwards, Dana Firekeeper, and Levi. Meth remains an antagonist throughout.
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Firekeeper’s Daughter

Hands-On Research. In addition to speaking with Native FBI agents and drug prosecutors as part of her research for Firekeeper’s Daughter, Boulley also attended a government-run workshop in which she, like Daunis, learned to make meth.