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Book Review - Daughters of the Deer

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

By Nicole Ensing, Project Archivist

*This book explores themes that are sensitive and may be triggering, please take care while reading.

Daughters of the Deer is a beautifully crafted historical fiction that I had a hard time putting down. The story is told through the perspectives of three central characters, Marie, Pierre, and Jeanne. Each viewpoint is woven together seamlessly to create imagery that pulls the reader through time to the 17th century, to what is now Quebec near the Trois-Rivières settlement. I felt as though I was there witnessing the story firsthand.

Cover shot of Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel.
Image 1

Marie, an Algonquin widow and healer of the Deer Clan, faces the impossible proposition of marrying a French settler and giving up her culture, independence, and so much more, in order to protect her people. Marie is determined to help her people survive in any way she can and as her connections to her identity and community are severed, she battles to protect and pass on her culture and heritage to her children. Pierre is a French settler, dedicated to New France and a devout catholic, who asks for Marie’s hand in marriage. Jeanne, Marie’s eldest daughter is born two-spirited - an Indigenous person that identifies as having a gender, sexual, or spiritual identity beyond the gender binary. Jeanne yearns for her mother’s culture which she never experienced, and she struggles to find her place in settler society. The law imposed by the French crown states that she must marry a man by her 18th birthday, but Jeanne is in love with Josephine. Jeanne’s two-spirit nature would be considered a gift to her mother’s people. Instead, she must face her father and the settlers of New France. Jeanne is determined to love who she wants and to live freely as a two-spirited person.

Danielle Daniel’s novel is inspired by the lives of her ancestors, both Indigenous and French. While the overall subject matter of colonization can be hard to grapple with, it is just one of the many reasons I encourage everyone to read this book. Daniel’s writing deals with the long (mostly untold or ignored) history of violence against Indigenous Women and two-spirited people and the deliberate erasure of Indigenous culture. Daniel gives the reader insight into what life would have been like for an Algonquin woman during settlement and colonization in the 17th century – a representation that is missing in Canada’s early history.

While the story has difficult subject matter and some heartbreaking scenes, you will also experience a story about family, love, hope, and resilience.

Pick up a copy of Daughters of the Deer for yourself at the Whyte Museum Book Shop, located at 111 Bear St. in Banff.

About the Author

Head shot of author Danielle Daniel.
Image 2

Danielle Daniel is a writer, an award-winning author and illustrator of settler and Indigenous ancestry. She has written two novels, Forever Birchwood, a middle grade novel set in her northern hometown and Daughters of the Deer, a historical fiction novel inspired by the lives of her ancestors— an Algonquin woman and a soldier/settler from France, and their first born daughter who was murdered by French settlers.

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, Once in a Blue Moon, and You Hold Me Up (illustrator) shortlisted for the 2018 Marilyn Baillie Award, among other honours.

She was born and raised in the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, also known as Sudbury, Ontario. This beautifully rugged and resilient landscape has greatly shaped and inspired her work.

Danielle was once an elementary school teacher, but now writes stories for children and adults. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, a B.Ed. from Laurentian University and a B.Arts/Women Studies from Ottawa University. She recently moved to Manitoulin Island with her family.



Image 1: Cover of Daughters of the Deer.

Image 2: Image courtesy of Danielle Daniel.

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Jul 21, 2022

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