Friday, December 17, 2021

Firekeeper's Daughter - Angeline Boulley

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I worked at the book fair at a local elementary school, and this school has a notable Native American population. While I was there, I noticed several of the children who were Native American were purchasing books where the main character was also Native American, and I could see in their eyes how excited they were to purchase a book that had characters that looked like them and shared some of their cultural background and beliefs. It was touching, actually, as I saw them walk right in and pick up those books, and I was so happy that there were book choices that they saw themselves reflected in. This book also features a main character who is a Native American young woman, and Boulley notes that it is important to her that Native American readers have characters they can relate to. I loved that about this book. I think it was not only culturally relevant for Native American readers, but for white readers such as myself who want to understand and support Native authors and Native characters.

First and foremost I think this book is brave. It is difficult to write about one’s culture and not be tempted to only include the good things. I think we all do it. We want to paint ourselves and our people in the best light, right? However, it is reality that not everyone, nor every culture is perfect. We all experience difficulties. Some of them are unique to our culture and even our race, while some are universal struggles that all people deal with. The key is to be able to celebrate and honor your culture while also recognizing that it’s not perfect. Boulley did an excellent job of this. I loved the cultural aspects of this story. The places, the people, the ceremony, the language was explored and embraced, but Boulley wasn’t afraid to also talk about struggles that this particular culture faces. I loved that. I thought it was brave and honest and gave me a better understanding of not only the culture, but also the reasons why they struggle with the things that they do. When I see others able to be vulnerable, it allows me freedom to be more honest about myself and my own culture and what struggles and difficulties we face.

Besides the important cultural relevance of this story, I thought it was just a really good book. The characters are great, and I especially liked the main character. She was strong and intelligent, but also had enough flaws to feel real and authentic. The other characters were great, too. The story itself is really good. It’s full of lots of intrigue and twists and turns and a downright good mystery that keeps you guessing until the end. There were some parts of the mystery that seemed somewhat obvious to me, but when the story was resolved I liked how I was right, but I also wasn’t. Do you get what I’m saying there? Even if you know some of the whodunnit, there is more discover and more to flesh out in the story.

I thought this was a great book, and definitely one that new adults and adults alike would enjoy. I especially recommend it for those who are into reading Native American literature and about Native American characters.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language, drug use, sex, and violence. I would definitely say that it is for new adults and maybe mature older teens.

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