Same Page 2019: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

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Throughout the month of March, JMRL is celebrating the 2019 Same Page community read. This year’s title is The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, who will be appearing at the Northside Library at 6pm on Wednesday, March 20th.

The book examines identity through the lenses of cross-cultural adoption and Chinese ethnicities set against the backdrops of suburban California and the tea mountains of Yunnan Province.

The library is hosting several book club meetings which will focus on The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Other book groups in the community are encouraged to read the title and can check out circulating book club kits, which include materials to help guide discussion.

JMRL invites the community to read and discuss a book written by an author appearing at the Virginia Festival of the Book each year in March. The library invites community members to attend a variety of free events at all of its eight branches in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties. For more information, please see jmrl.org/samepage.

Same Page is generously funded by the Friends of JMRL and supported by the Art and Jane Hess Fund of the Library Endowment.

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“Moby-Dick of the tea world”

25150798Books on Tap read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane  by Lisa See at Champion Brewery on March 7. Throughout the month of March, JMRL encourages everyone to read this title and then meet the author at our free event at Northside library on March 20th at 6pm as part of the Same Page.  

See frequently writes on Chinese-American themes, having spent much of her youth in L.A.’s Chinatown with paternal relatives. In this novel, she traces a young Akah women growing up in a rural tea growing region of China near the Thai border in the 1980s. Li-yan is raised according to traditional Akah customs, shadowing her mother the midwife. The local teacher singles her out for education in the nearest city, where her life is upended by her boyfriend. She gives birth to a daughter who is put in an orphanage and ultimately raised in California by a white couple. Li-yan packs a lot of living into her first 27 years while the daughter explores the clues (dark skin, a uniquely decorated tea cake) that hint at her biological parents. Li-yan and that daughter, Haley, work to find each other by the end of the novel.

The majority of our book club members liked the book. See packs in tons of information about the tea industry and the Akha people which we enjoyed as a window into lives we would not normally read about. Some readers thought that she could have done a better job weaving those details into the story instead of dropping in blocks of exposition. We were surprised to encounter the matrilineal and sex-positive Akah traditions. Coincidences abound but most of us thought they were within the bounds of reason. The ending wasn’t a surprise, and while a happy ending is satisfying, we speculated on the type of relationship Li-yan and Hayley would maintain back in California.

If this story inspires you to look into your own family history, check out JMRL’s online genealogy resources or set up an appointment to digitize your personal VHS tapes, slides, photos, negatives and cassette tapes.

More Information:
About the author
About the book
Other works
About the Akha
About the tea plantations

Books on Tap Information:

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Posted in Books on Tap

“Times have changed. But not times only.”

29939353The Brown Baggers met at the Central Library on February 21 to discuss Kathleen Rooney’s novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

The novel takes readers on a journey around Manhattan in starting in the 1930s and ending in the 1980s. Lillian Boxfish is a “devout walker” in her 80s, walking around Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in a mink coat, and reminiscing about her past. Along her walk, she meets and talks with several interesting characters and thinks about how much the city has changed. Boxfish was an accomplished poet when she was younger, and was notably the highest-paid woman in advertising in the 1930s. But her career was cut short when she married and became a mother.

The Brown Baggers loved this book! Many said that they identified with the main character and found her behavior very relatable. Others commented on the witty dialogue and how Boxfish described people in interesting ways. They also liked how strict Boxfish was with manners and that she was such a strong and engaging character. They commented that she had a supportive best friend and a great social life, all while having a career, not just a job, which was unusual for women during that time period.

Readers also liked that the novel was set during New Year’s Eve- a time for reflection. The only negative comments mentioned about the book were that the main character’s breakdown didn’t seem as realistic as the rest of the novel. But readers understood why she may have been depressed and thought that her husband did not challenge her, some even wondered why she married him. Brown Baggers also liked that the novel was based on a real person, Margaret Fishback, and appreciated that Rooney did so much research for the book.

Links:
About the author
About Margaret Fishback
Review from the Chicago Tribune
Review from Kirkus Reviews

Mentions:
Fried Green Tomatoes- movie and book
Groundhog Day
Margaret Fishback Poetry at UVa

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, March 14 at noon to discuss Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.