The debut novel “The Star That Always Stays” from Michigan author Anna Rose Johnson is a touching historical fiction story based on her great-grandmother’s struggle to hide her Indigenous heritage and keep her family safe.
“The Star That Always Stays” tells the tale of Norvia, a young Ojibwe teen who suddenly finds herself apart from her tribe and living in a white settlement on Michigan’s Beaver Island in 1914.
The book is getting rave reviews from critics, even comparing it to literary classics like “Anne of Green Gables.” Johnson spoke with CultureShift about what she learned while researching her family’s history and the unique challenges of writing in the historical fiction genre.
She says the idea for the book started about eight years ago when she learned about the details of her great-grandmother’s upbringing through genealogical research.
“When I began to learn more about her young teen years, I realized that it could be a very interesting backdrop for a middle grade novel. The beginning of her high school years, and when her mother was remarrying after having just been divorced, I felt that it all kind of came together in a very fascinating way.”
Johnson says the story allows her to preserve her family’s heritage in an intimate way.
“I definitely feel very connected to her [Norvia] having gone through this process of writing the book for so long.”
So connected, in fact, that they apparently shared a name. In researching for the book, she found a birth record that documented her great-grandmother’s name as Anna Norvia, a parallel that was previously unbeknownst to her family.
“When I saw that, I’m like, ‘That is really, really cool…’ That was a very fun connection to discover.”
Listen: Johnson talks researching Beaver Island and the inspiration behind the book title.