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The Folger Spotlight

'Daughters of the Deer' by Danielle Daniel

Folger Book Club returns on Thursday, March 7 with a discussion of Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this historical fiction novel.

What is Daughters of the Deer about?

In this haunting, groundbreaking, historical novel, Danielle Daniel imagines the lives of her ancestors in the Algonquin territories of the 1600s, a story inspired by her family link to a girl murdered near Trois-Rivières in the early days of French settlement.

Marie, an Algonquin woman of the Weskarini Deer Clan, lost her first husband and her children to an Iroquois raid. In the aftermath of another lethal attack, her chief begs her to remarry for the sake of the clan. Marie is a healer who honours the ways of her people, and Pierre, the green-eyed ex-soldier from France who wants her for his bride, is not the man she would choose. But her people are dwindling, wracked by white men’s diseases and nearly starving every winter as the game retreats away from the white settlements. If her chief believes such a marriage will cement their alliance with the French against the Iroquois and the British, she feels she has no choice. Though she does it reluctantly, and with some fear–Marie is trading the memory of the man she loved for a man she doesn’t understand at all, and whose devout Catholicism blinds him to the ways of her people.

This beautiful, powerful novel brings to life women who have literally fallen through the cracks of settler histories. Especially Jeanne, the first child born of the new marriage, neither white nor Weskarini, but caught between worlds. As she reaches adolescence, it becomes clear she is two-spirited. In her mother’s culture, she would have been considered blessed, her nature a sign of special wisdom. But to the settlers of New France, and even to her own father, Jeanne is unnatural, sinful–a woman to be shunned, and worse.

And so, with the poignant story of Jeanne, Danielle Daniel imagines her way into the heart and mind of a woman at the origin of the long history of violence against Indigenous women and the deliberate, equally violent, disruption of First Nations culture–opening a door long jammed shut, so all of us can enter.

Critical Reception

“A deeply felt and personal story from an author who we can only hope has more tales to tell.” —Quill and Quire

“A beautiful book, this is urgent reading for anyone seeking to understand more about the myriad ways European colonization in the 1600s still reverberates today, to devastating effect.” —The Globe and Mail

Why did we choose this book?

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection explores not only Shakespeare’s life and works, but also the plays’ historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

Daughters of the Deer takes place in the late 17th century, when the Americas were being colonized by Europeans, forever changing the lives of those already living on the land. This time period is heavily reflected in the Folger’s collection from the European viewpoint; this novel allows us to reconsider such sources from other perspectives and gain a better understanding of those stories that may be absent from history.

About the author: Danielle Daniel

From Penguin Random House Canada

Danielle Daniel is a writer, an award-winning children’s book author and an illustrator. Like many Francophones with origins in Quebec, she shares an ancestral link to the people who inspired Daughters of the Deer, a first novel that springs from the story of what happened to the daughter of an Algonquin woman and a soldier/settler from France. Her picture books include Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox (winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and a Best 100 title at the New York Public Library) and You Hold Me Up, shortlisted for the 2018 Marilyn Baillie Award, among other honours. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (Sudbury, Ontario).

Content Transparency

Daughters of the Deer includes references to potentially sensitive subjects. Expand below for a list of content.

March’s Bookstore Partner

Fonts Books & Gifts is the newest independent bookstore in Northern Virginia, bringing a bookstore back to Mclean. They offer new books for all ages, as well as unique gifts, greeting cards, journaling supplies, candles, stickers, “dry” spirits and non-alcoholic beer, and more. Visit them online at fontsbooks.com or in person at 6262 Old Dominion Dr.

Purchase your copy of Daughters of the Deer

We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program

Capitol Hill Community Foundation
Junior League of Washington

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