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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Stories for Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is celebrated each March. Women’s History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.”

This year’s theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” Women are honored who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and have pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society. These women embraced the fact that the means determine the ends and so developed nonviolent methods to ensure just and peaceful results.

Here are a few fiction books about women and war:
51zaKGHzUQL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – It’s the Biafran secession and the subsequent war. Fifteen-year-old Ugwu is houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor who sends him to school, and in whose living room Ugwu hears voices full of revolutionary zeal. Odenigbo’s beautiful mistress, Olanna, a sociology teacher, is running away from her parents’ world of wealth and excess; Kainene, her urbane twin, is taking over their father’s business; and Kainene’s English lover, Richard, forms a bridge between their two worlds.

 

 

19286587Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera – Yasodhara tells the story of her Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara’s and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara’s family escapes to Los Angeles. Yasodhara’s life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl’s. Saraswathie is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid – a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways.

 

23209971Girl at War by Sara Novic – When her happy life in 1991 Croatia is shattered by civil war, ten-year-old Ana Juric is embroiled in a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers before making a daring escape to America, where years later she struggles to hide her past.

 

 

 

51BJV0x8DsL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli – Helen, an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War, must take leave of a war she is addicted to and a devastated country she has come to cherish. As the fall of the city begins, Helen and her lover make their way through the streets to try to escape to a new life.