Carrie Fisher was my second cousin.
I never met her. I had emailed a few times over my writer-lifetime, but to the best of my knowledge she had nothing to do with her father, Eddie Fisher’s family. I was never looking for a high-profile connection, just a regular one. I never expected a reply, and the relationship had again been relegated to party banter and Amy-trivia. (It’s about all I’ve got!)
Her grandfather, Joe Fisher, was my grandmother’s, Mollie Tisch’s, oldest sibling. Joe changed his name to Fisher from Tisch. The sisters, Pearl, Bertha, and Mollie, changed their names when they married, as women did back then (and some still do). Her famous father, Eddie Fisher, was my mother’s first cousin, and he grew up in Philadelphia like everyone else in our family, before his left coast/Debbie Reynolds/Elizabeth Taylor life.
During high school I interviewed Aunt Bertha about their trip to America from Russia in 1913. My grandmother was about four and Uncle Joe was a teenager. The story I remember most fondly is how Uncle Joe’s hat flew off in the wind. No more hat for Uncle Joe – which was a big deal for an Orthodox Jew with no way to cover his head. I have always been interested in the plight of Eastern European immigrants, and wrote my senior college thesis on Sunday New York Times Editorials’ On Eastern European Immigrants in 1910. Or something like that. I don’t remember exactly, but I do know I used MICROFILM to read these editorials. I think I got a B. Or I like to think I got a B.
Anyway, what does this have to do with writing?
As you know, I’m writing book 4 and it’s set in South Haven, Michigan. No, that has nothing to do with huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But…in the early 1900s through 1930s, families from Chicago and Milwaukee—mostly Jewish families—arrived in South Haven, Michigan via steamship on Lake Michigan. The same kind of steamship that likely carried the Tisch family from Russia to America.
Just the other day I was contemplating a prologue (shoot me, I know) about how Boop’s ancestors found themselves on the Southwestern Michigan shore in the early 1900s. I was thinking about little girls standing on a steamship, wondering what was going to happen next.
I know my grandmother’s story. Now I can’t wait to write the rest of Boop’s!
Happy New Year, friends!
PS I didn’t have to stretch too far to circle back to WF with this one, did I?
PPS Here’s a photo I’m using as inspiration for 18 year old Betty (better known as Boop). Ignore the palm trees.