A debut YA novel called The Firekeeper's Daughter sold for a sum rumored to be seven figures, after a 12-bidder auction, in the run-up to next week's Frankfurt Book Fair. The novel by Angeline Boulley, which Tiffany Liao at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers nabbed in a North American rights agreement, is currently making the rounds among foreign publishers.
Boulley, who was represented in the two-book deal by Faye Bender at the Book Group, is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula). The director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education, Boulley gained some attention thanks to a mentorship program overseen by the publishing industry nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, participating in the 2019 WNDB Mentorship Program. (The program allows up-and-coming authors to workshop a manuscript, one-on-one, with an established author working in their genre.)
In a pitch letter for the novel, which PW obtained, Bender compared Boulley's book to Tommy Orange's bestselling and award-winning 2018 novel, There There. Like Orange's debut, which explores Native American identity, The Firekeeper's Daughter also delves into questions of identity in the Native American community.
The heroine of the novel, Daunis, is of mixed heritage. Unenrolled in her local tribe, she, according to Bender, feels "like an outsider both in her hometown and on the nearby Indian reservation." Despite being the valedictorian of her high school class, she is not headed to college. Instead she's bracing for a future as the caretaker for her emotionally unstable mother. But then, after witnessing a murder, she "must decide what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) when she is forced to choose between saving those she loves, helping the FBI, and protecting the tribal community."