The Star Fisher Archives - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Radio Bristol Book Club: The Star Fisher

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

This month’s book is The Star Fisher by Laurence Yep, a book featured in Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature, a special exhibit that was on display at the museum in 2019. Based on Yep’s mother’s childhood, The Star Fisher tells the story of 15-year-old Joan Lee, a Chinese-American girl who moves to West Virginia from Ohio in 1927. Joan and her siblings speak English but her parents only speak Chinese, and while she knows that they are all Americans, no one else seems to see her and her family that way. As they struggle to put down roots in their new town and run their laundry business, Joan encounters prejudice and racism but also kindness. Amidst these experiences, Joan believes that her desire for respect and acceptance mirrors the Chinese legend of the star fisher, a half-bird/half-human creature that sees with two sets of eyes – and so Joan sees life as an Asian and as an American. Aimed at upper elementary and lower middle school readers, this book wonderfully explores the story of an Asian American’s experience and the importance of treating everyone with empathy and respect.

Book cover with the drawing of a young Asian American girl standing at a fence with a house behind her. You can also see the expansive blue night sky and mountains behind her. She is wearing a blue top or dress, and her black hair in in pigtails/braids. She has her chin on one hand and gazes at the sky.

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Laurence Yep published his first story – a science fiction piece – when he was only 18 years old. Yep has said that he often felt torn between mainstream American culture and his Chinese roots when he was growing up, and this theme has often come to fore in his writing throughout his career. Focused on children’s literature, Yep has written over 70 books and other works, including two Newbery Award winners in his Golden Mountain series. The Star Fisher was published in 1991 and was followed by a sequel called Dream Soul in 2000.

A Chinese American man with dark, slightly graying, hair is smiling at the camera. He wears glasses, a greenish-blue checked shirt with a dark blue fleece or sweater vest over it. He has his arms crossed.

Portrait of Laurence Yep from a 2001 article in the Seattle PI

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, December 22 at 12:00pm for our discussion of The Star Fisher. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time – the librarians will be happy to help you find it! We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for January 2023 is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, January 26. Check out a full list of the books we will read in 2023 here, where you can also listen to archived shows.

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.