Angeline Boulley is having a whirlwind experience. After the release of her debut novel, “Firekeeper’s Daughter,“ a young adult thriller that was years in the making, the public response has led to wild fanfare inclusive of book club appearances, national (and virtual) broadcast interviews and the biggest of it all — a Netflix production deal inked by Higher Ground aka Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, where she will serve as executive producer.
“There are times where it just hits me that this is so bizarre and so wonderful. It’s so surreal, “ Boulley says. “I never envisioned that my book would land in quite the way that it has. I always knew that it was a great story and I had faith that it would be published, but there’s no way that I could have ever dreamt about all of this — the book clubs, Netflix and the Obamas.”
“Firekeeper’s Daughter” is set on Sugar Island, a fictionalized Ojibwe tribe in Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Daunis Fontaine, an 18-year-old biracial, unenrolled tribal member, witnesses a devastating murder that leads to her learning about an undercover investigation. She uses her science “geekery” and knowledge about Ojibwe traditional medicines to find out who’s responsible for a deadly new drug that threatens her community.
Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians, brings thrill and mystery to the pages, but at the core resides a coming-of-age experience of a young Ojibwe girl “claiming her place in the community” and making decisions about the woman she wants to be. Themes such as identity, belonging, justice/injustice and Indigenous communities are at the foundation of the world Boulley creates.
“I really wanted to tell this story for teens out there who might not feel they’re Indian enough or too much or that it just depends on the situation that they’re in,” Boulley says. “That was a big part of the story, wanting to have different characters go through different versions of similar microaggressions.”
Listen: Angeline Boulley details her personal connections to the storyline and what she hopes remains authentic in the Netflix adaptation.