“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

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Brown Bagger’s Book Club Selections

bookstack_112044239The Brown Baggers met on December 20 to select books for the upcoming months. Many new and classic titles were suggested by members, but after only one exciting round of voting there were some clear winners. Upcoming titles that the group will read include both fiction and nonfiction books.

Here are the upcoming titles for July 2019- May 2020:
The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe 
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza 
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Educated by Tara Westover
There There by Tommy Orange
The Soul of America by Jon Meacham

If you’re interested in joining the Brown Baggers Book Group, you’re welcome to come to the Central Library on the third Thursday of the month from 12-1pm and participate in our lively discussion. You can call 434.979.7151 ext. 4 for more information or send an email. Also, check out JMRL’s wiki for the book club picks from previous years.

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, January 17 at 12pm to discuss Friends Divided by Gordon S. Wood.