Book Notes | ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See is mostly set in China, with Southern California also a part of the story. The two main story lines involve one of the ethnic groups in China living in a Pu’er tea growing area, and the plight of a Chinese girl adopted by a family in Southern California and the challenges of being a minority and adopted.
China is known for its tea and Pu’er tea is especially desired by Chinese and foreigners alike. The novel tells the story of a young woman from the Akha tribe of China’s Yunnan province who becomes a tea entrepreneur, as her daughter grows up in California.
The book explores a facet of Chinese culture that is generally unknown. Li-Yan, the only daughter of a tea-growing family, is a child of the Akha “ethnic minority,” as groups in China who are not of the Han majority are known. The Akha are governed by their beliefs in spirits, cleansing rituals, taboos, and the dictates of village shamans. The Akha, inhabiting rugged, inaccessible terrain, have avoided the full brunt of China’s experiments in social engineering, including the Great Leap Forward, (1958–62) and its resultant famine, the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), and the one child family policy (1980–2016). Li-Yan’s family harvests mostly from wild tea trees as opposed to terraced bushes, and their product is discovered by an outsider and tea connoisseur, Huang, who alters Li-Yan’s destiny.
The Akha encouraged youthful sexual experimentation, but progeny outside marriage were automatically “rejects.” So, when Li-Yan discovers she is pregnant by her absent fiancé, San-pa, she hides her pregnancy. After the infant is born, Li-Yan journeys on foot to a town where she gives up her child. Over the next 20 years, we follow Li-Yan’s life and its many complex turns. We also read of her child's challenges as a privileged American daughter. Though aware of all she has in her life, the daughter still feels a piece of herself is missing.
Our book club members were mixed in their reactions to the book. Although it represents exhaustive research on See’s part and is certainly engrossing, the novel’s extensive elucidation of international adoption, tea arcana, and, in particular, Akha lore at times put off some members, particularly the parts of the story dealing with the treatment of “rejects.”
— Kathryn Sedo, UMRA Book Club I member
Book Club I in August
Fri, Aug 18 2023, 2pm
Kathryn Sedo will lead the discussion of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 18.
Please join us for an invigorating hike from The Monument located at the intersection of Mississippi RIver Blvd and Summit Avenue in St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and back. This hike is on paved trails, approximately 5.5 miles in length, and will be at a pace suitable to the weather.
Knowing your family’s medical history is important, especially as we become more aware of the role played by genetics in many medical conditions. This presentation by UMRA member Michelle Casey will include suggestions for finding family death records—despite data challenges—based on Casey’s search for her own grandfather’s record.
Andy Whitman's Employee Benefits class will be holding an Oxford style debate on four different topics. During the debate a Board of Distinguished Professionals questions each Team, and finally comments on Team performance after the end of the debates.
Topics include tax changes; tax reducing moves required now and tax management in 2024.
It may seem like science fiction, but University of Minnesota researchers are exploring therapeutic interventions to treat aging and prevent age-related diseases. Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, leads the Medical School’s Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism, and will share her work on aging—and how to slow it down—for UMRA’s Living Well Workshop on Tuesday, January 16, via Zoom.
Pat Miles, former TV news anchor and journalist, lost her husband suddenly and found the financial and legal challenges to be overwhelming during her time of grief. She wrote a book about her experience, Before All Is Said and Done, incorporating wisdom from other unexpected widows, and will share her learnings for the first UMRA Forum of the New Year.
UMRA’s first Armchair Traveler program of 2024 will take us on travels close to home and to the edges of the earth with two fabulous presenters, Carol Urness and Kate Maple.
Join UMRA members at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville for an afternoon of comradery, food, and entertainment. After an hour of mingling and nosh, the highlight of this mid-winter event will be an hour of song and music by Twin Cities musicians Dane Stauffer and Dan Chouinard.
Prepayment of $35 per person; or $38 after Jan 5
If you are curious about insects in their astonishing variety, plan to join the UMRA Cabinets of Curiosity to tour the Insect Collection and Natural History Library in Hodson Hall.