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Five questions for Angeline Boulley

In Angeline Boulley’s YA debut, Firekeeper’s Daughter (Holt, 14 years and up), eighteen-year-old Daunis is dragged into an investigation of the meth infiltrating her family members’ Sugar Island Ojibwe tribe — and the tragic murder of her best friend. It’s a gripping thriller, a nuanced contemporary Native story, a twisty mystery, an exploration of grief, and more. And at the conclusion of this nearly five-hundred-page summer-reading page-turner, readers may well go right back to the beginning in search of tightly woven-in clues.

1. The layers you bring to this story — it’s such a multifaceted tale. How did you strike that perfect balance?

Angeline Boulley: Thank you! I viewed my story’s plot and purpose as intertwined in a synergistic manner where, together, they were more than the sum of their parts. I spent a decade writing and revising. That is a lot of time to explore different facets of the story and polish the shine.

2. The female characters are particularly unforgettable, both as individual, independent people and members of a tight-knit community. What (or who) was their inspiration?

AB: Two women I met early in my career were my first experience with Native aunties like Teddie. For some reason, they took me under their wings and mentored me. I wanted to be just like them, but thought I’d never measure up. Then I wondered if they had always been so strong, even when they were my age. As our friendship deepened, they shared their stories with me. I learned that they, like me, are works in progress.

3. No spoilers, but that ending was wrenching! Was it narratively inevitable? And was it difficult to write?

AB: Yes — I always knew how the story would begin and end. No — it wasn’t difficult to write because I knew it was the most impactful conclusion for the readers.

4. Who are some other Native authors you recommend to young people?

AB: Cherie Dimaline, Darcie Little Badger, Dawn Quigley, and Cynthia Leitich Smith for sure. There are other authors whose work isn’t categorized as YA but I’d still recommend them to teens: Marcie R. Rendon, Kelli Jo Ford, and Erika T. Wurth.

5. What’s your favorite type of summer read?

AB: I am a year-round lover of mysteries and thrillers. I just finished Tess Sharpe’s The Girls I’ve Been and am currently reading Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. On my summer reading list: Blackout, Darling, Dial A for Aunties, and The Other Black Girl.


From the May 2021 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading. For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading. Photo by Amber Boulley.

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