Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Elise Blackwell


Fireweed is a novel following a family in the North American fur trade of the 1830’s. The son of a mixed race parentage and only surviving child of a natural disaster, the protagonist, titled only as the boy, must navigate the complex relationships his father has established between independent trappers, the burgeoning United States military, and the Anishinaabe peoples. The father’s dealings have culminated in the loss of the mysterious iron safe he possesses, which houses what each interested party desires, as well as a truth the boy fears the most.

The novel examines time and the American identity through a speculative past, merging the American expansion west and the earliest northern territory grabs in Michigan’s expanding statehood. Time is collapsed both for the reader, and for the boy, who begins to see his father’s progression of the fur trade into a darker blood-letting of early pioneers and native people’s alike.

In order to engage the merging of histories, the novel looks to shorter forms such as the novella in seeking to explore its own genre. Works such as Building Fiction and Narrative Purpose influenced the design of the novel to merge itself with the novella through syntactical compression and an elusiveness situated in an impressionistic narrative darkness, which obscures as well as expands in an effort to enlist readers in their own formation of this new narrative of the American west.


© 2022, Robert Kopfensteiner