We talk with Kirk Wallace Johnson about his book, The Fisherman And The Dragon: Fear, Greed, And A Fight For Justice On The Gulf Coast. It’s a gripping account of a small town set on fire by hatred, xenophobia, and ecological disaster—and the woman who fought to save it.

Then, our 2005 interview with that very woman. We re-air our interview with Diane Wilson about her book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas.

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Kirk Wallace Johnson

They call it the Cancer Belt. The Texas Gulf Coast used to be home to some of the richest fishing grounds in America, but was laid waste by the toxic pollution pouring into its waters from chemical companies and oil refineries.

As long ago as the 1970’s, the fishing industry began its decline. But instead of fighting the polluters who were taking their livelihood away, the local fishermen blamed the Vietnamese refugees who had recently begun moving to the area.

They invited in the KKK to drive the Vietnamese out–except for one fisherman, or fisherwoman to be exact. Diane Wilson fought the chemical companies and made common cause with the Vietnamese. Eventually her heroism won over the white fisherman, too.

Kirk Wallace Johnson tells the story with cinematic flair in his book, The Fisherman And The Dragon. Johnson is a screenwriter and an author of three books, including The Feather Thief and To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind.

In addition to being a writer, he is the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, which resettled thousands Iraqi refugees who were imperiled as a result of working for the U.S. during the war.

Listen to an excerpt from The Fishermen and the Dragon

Diane Wilson

Diane Wilson started shrimping on Texas Gulf Coast with her family at the age of eight and became a shrimp boat captain when she was twenty four.

She’s been an environmental activist since 1989, when she took on Formosa Plastics, one of the biggest polluters in the US. Her 2005 book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green Press), describes her struggle to preserve a way of life that is ever more endangered and may never recover.

Writers Voice spoke to her in October of 2005. Francesca was joined by the much-missed Daisy Mathias, who was WV co-host at that time.