A good book is an immersive experience, an opportunity for the reader to get lost in imagination and explore a new world. A great book does that and more — it brings a community together to discuss, debate, and share in its wonder.

That is the goal of WestportREADS, which was created in 2002 as a way for Westporters to bond over a book and deepen the community’s engagement in literature.

The 2023 WestportREADS selection is Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, the celebrated young adult novel centered on 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine, a Native teen who must navigate family tragedy, new relationships, and an FBI investigation to root out the corruption in her community.

Copies of the book are available for borrowing now at The Westport Library. Firekeeper’s Daughter is also available as a digital copy (e-book) and as an audiobook.

In addition, throughout the months of January and February, there will be events and programs centered on Firekeeper’s Daughter, including book discussions, celebrations, learning opportunities, and more. The capstone event will be held Thursday, February 16, when Boulley appears in-person at the Library to deliver the WestportREADS keynote address.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate Firekeeper’s Daughter as the 2023 WestportREADS selection and ecstatic to have her in the Library to deliver this year’s keynote,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Angeline is a master storyteller with a tale that will resonate throughout the Westport community and spark discussion and conversation in the way only a great book can.”

Boulley is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and hails from Sugar Island, Michigan, located between the state’s Upper Peninsula and Canada. She served as her tribe’s education director and assistant executive director and on the board of regents at Bay Mills Community College before becoming director for the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and most recently, a first-time published novelist at age 54.

Boulley told The New York Times that she first had the idea for Firekeeper’s Daughter in high school but didn’t start writing it until she was 44. “The story started out as a whisper and then it got louder and louder,” she told the Times.

The book is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club YA Pick. It is being adapted at Netflix for TV with former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground.

Among its many honors, Firekeeper’s Daughter was named a Printz Medal Winner, Morris Award Winner, American Indian Youth Literature Award YA Honor Book, TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time Selection, 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection, Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Books of 2021 Selection, and PopSugar Best March 2021 YA Book Selection.

“Hitting hard when it comes to issues such as citizenship, language revitalization, and the corrosive presence of drugs on Native communities, this novel will long stand in the hearts of both Native and non-Native audiences,” raved Publishers Weekly.

Said NPR: “A contemplative exploration of existing between two cultural identities meets fake relationship romance meets backwoods thriller in this absolute powerhouse of a debut.”

Boulley’s father is a traditional firekeeper, which she described as one “who strikes ceremonial fires at spiritual activities in the tribal community and ensures protocols are followed.” She currently lives in Southwest Michigan but said that “my home will always be Bahweting (the place of the rapids) in Sault Ste. Marie.”

Past WestportREADS selections include The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism by Layla Saad, and Exit West by Moshin Hamid, among others. For more past WestportREADS selections, and to learn more about the annual event, visit the WestportREADS homepage on The Westport Library website.

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Firekeeper’s Daughter Companion Books

Preschool and K-2

Fry Bread by Kevin Maillard

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Grades 2-5

Jo Jo Makoons series by Dawn Quigley

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell (nonfiction)

Middle School

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids (short stories)

She Holds Up the Stars by Sandra Laronde

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection

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