The Star Fisher, by Laurence Yep,
is a novel about racial prejudice towards Chinese Americans and the struggle
to overcome the hardships created by such prejudice. The novel takes place
in Clarksburg, West Virginia, in the year 1927. At the outset of the novel
the protagonist, Joan Lee, has just moved from Ohio to West Virginia together
her parents and her younger brother and sister. Joan's father wants to
start a laundry business in Clarksburg, a town where no other Chinese-Americans
live. From the very beginning, the family experiences isolation and intolerance
in the town. One exception is Miss Lucy, their landlady, who plays a very
important role in helping the Lees to adjust.
Although the three children are all American-born and speak English fluently, this does not stop them from feeling the prejudice in the new setting. Joan especially has the most difficult time. In addition to the prejudice she faces at school, she must also serve as translator for her parents, who are originally from China and only have a very limited command of the English language.
It is only after one of the later events in the story, a pie social, that the Lees start to feel accepted by more than just a few town members. The result is that the laundry also picks up for Joan's father. Although prejudice still exists in the town even at the end of the novel, the positive response by many of the town members makes the Lees' adjustment to life in Clarksburg more hopeful.
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