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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

by Lisa See

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Dare I say it? This book was not my cup of tea. Dense with details at times, it glossed over other parts of the story with alarming speed. Reading about some of the traditions of the Akha people was heartbreaking, as was learning about their poverty-laden and rough lives. The novel was tedious at times and yet informative; too much about tea growing and way too much with Haley’s college essays and thesis emails. Was the focus of the book the Akha people and their tea-growing lives and traditions; or the relationships between mothers and daughters, between husbands and wives, and between friends; or maybe the problems of adopting children of a different race; or perhaps to show that the author did indeed do much research in preparing to write this book? Well, this book had all that and more. And eventually, when all the story threads came together, the book abruptly ended, just when it was finally, at long last, getting good. My advice? Brew a cup of tea - or open a bottle of Lipton’s - and write your own epilogue. Fans of Lisa See will love this novel, but others (myself included) will wish they had spent the time on a different sort of book. ( )
  Maydacat | Feb 23, 2019 |
Lisa See centers her story around Li-yan, an extremely bright young girl from the Akha minority in China. The Akha people of the remote mountainous tea regions live in almost pure isolation. At the very center of their existence is a deep-seated respect for family and tradition, including ancient customs passed on to each generation and rituals performed by the Nima and Ruma. The very thought of becoming an outcast because of disrespecting those customs is unspeakable, however it is done by some. Li-Yan is a very intelligent girl and is given the opportunity to receive an education beyond normal. Unfortunately for her, she not only gets drawn into a tea making enterprise, but she becomes pregnant and the boy is nowhere to be found. Instead of following the customs, she abandons her child at an orphanage and returns to her village to assist in the tea picking and fermenting of tea. Circumstances arise for Li-Yan to make a better life for herself and her family back in the village and she proceeds. Unfortunately, when she tries to claim her daughter from the orphanage, she finds out that she has been adopted and is now in the United States.

Lisa See presents a storyline that focuses on families, customs, and unfortunately money. When Li-yan wraps an ancient tea cake among her baby's clothes before abandoning her, she is passing on the very tea that provided work, tradition, respect, and the family ties that bind. As I read this story I experienced happiness and profound sadness. The discussions that the adopted Chinese girls in the US have are quite eye opening. What Li-Yan goes through in her life is so hard to picture, yet easy to believe. There were parts of the story that were a bit slow moving, which is why I only gave it 4 Stars (actually 4.5), but it is an incredible story about a culture that I knew nothing about. I also learned a lot about tea. I drink tea, but never really thought about it. Some people might find some of the facts and the history a bit tedious, but you can easily skim that part and the story still moves nicely. I love her writing, it is almost poetic. I could quote many sections that moved me, but I will leave that to the next reader. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
I drink tea, cold in the summer and hot in the winter, but I never gave much thought to where it comes from other than whether it's a flavor I like. I have little to no idea about the lives of the people who grow, harvest, or sell the tea. Lisa See's most recent novel not only introduces one group of these people, the Akha minority in China, to readers, but also examines the ways in which their culture and their relationships are changing as the tea trade itself is changing.

Li-yan is a young Akha woman growing up in a remote mountain village in the Yunnan Province, bound by the long held beliefs and customs of her people. Li-yan's family has harvested Pu'er tea for generations, the women of the family carefully guarding the location of their prized "mother" tree from the men and all outsiders. Li-yan is caught straddling the past and the changing future where things like banishing those who bear twins will no longer hold sway over her culture. Falling in love, she commits the terrible sin of having a child out of wedlock, a sin punished by the death of the baby. Having no other choice, she gives her tiny daughter up for adoption even as she has almost immediate second thoughts. Her journey through life is not an easy one and the shadow of her missing daughter follows her always. An ocean away in America, Haley is the much loved, adopted Chinese daughter of an educated, white couple. She has forever wondered about her birth mother and why she was given up for adoption. Part of her identity is completely unknown, unknown except for the unusual pressed tea cake tucked into her baby blanket. It is her search for answers about her origins and about this tea that sets her on her own journey back to China.

This is a dual narrative weaving Li-yan and Haley's stories. Li-yan's tale takes up the bulk of the beginning (and in truth the whole novel) and is told in the first person while Haley's tale is told through the many documents others write about her during her childhood, doctor's notes, her mother's letters to family, Haley's own school work. Haley's story only becomes a traditional narrative at the end of the novel. Although Haley's search for self and the identity politics involved are important, Li-yan's life and the trials she overcomes are far more interesting to the reader, offering a history of minorities in China, a glimpse at an evolving minority culture, insight into all the levels of the tea industry, and the treatment and ultimate power of women. No reader will doubt where the novel is headed but the coincidences required to reach that point can be a little unbelievable. See does an amazing job with the culture of the Akha and with the quiet power and will of the women in this story. Haley's desire to know her own past is well done and believable and it's lovely to see her parents' support for her need for information. Those who like a goodly dose of history and anthropology with their fiction will definitely enjoy this story of mothers and daughters, identity, what is gained and what is lost through globalization, and the changing landscape of the tea world, culturally, economically, and ecologically.

A 2017 National Reading Group Month Great Group Read ( )
  whitreidtan | Jan 21, 2019 |
This story follows a girl named Li-yan as she grows up in the remote village of an Akha tribe in China. She grows with superstitions that she is told will change her fate in life, but to outsiders would seem beyond extreme. (killing a set of newborn twins because that is the highest form of evil). The women of this village are known for picking tea leaves and making tea cakes. This village has no running water, and no electricity. Li-yan has never even seen a car let alone modern conveniences that were available in the 1980s.

As Li-yan grows, a turn of fate sets her on a course she never expected to be on. She leaves her village and is introduced to the business of selling tea from her remote village. These teas are so valuable that they go for several 1000s of dollars when they sell. Li-yan starts to make money to send back to her village, and meets a man that will change everything for her.

The second narrator of this book is a child named Haley. Haley is a Chinese girl who was adopted as a baby from an orphange in China. She is growing up in America in a rich family and has everything she needs. She becomes interested in tea and its origins in China as she gets into high school and then on to college. Her path leads her back to the remote villages of China as a college student, and there she meets people that can help her reconnect with her unknown past.

I have mixed feelings about this book. While parts of it were very good, and I was very involved with the story (Especially Li-yan and her village and their ways), some parts fell flat. Haley's parts were not that interesting, and then there were parts of the book that just were way too detailed about tea. IT read more like a text book in those sections, than a novel, and I found myself skimming quite a bit. I did not find that it helped the story along at all. I was invested in the novel for the story about the people - not the tea.

And the ending - for the love. I will tell you now that it was a lot of build up for a lot of let down. You hit a wall - the last sentence. Really? This is where you want to end this book? It was frustrating to say the least.

I am a mother of an adopted little boy from China. He came home to us at the age of 14 months. IT has been 11 years since that happened, and we don't go a day where we aren't grateful to his birth mother for her sacrifice. This book does talk a good bit from the point of view of a birth mother who always wonders about her child, and from the adopted child's point of view. It did feel like, sometimes - not much - that the author felt that adoptive parents collect these children as something to show off and mold to be the "ultimate Asian child". I can tell you from my point of view -that isn't how it is. At least not for us. Could be because we have a boy, but our son asks only for legos and food. End of list. Typical boy.

I am mixed on whether to recommend this book. I would say yes overall - give it a try. But it could have been better. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
I've always enjoyed Lisa See's novels of China and I especially like this one where she explores the lives of China's ethnic minorities and the tea industry.

The story follows a young girl who struggles between the traditional ways of her ethnic clan and education and modern life. She makes some horrible mistakes - notably having a child out of wedlock that she gives up to an orphanage - but due to perseverance and luck she manages to make a successful life for herself.

Some may say that the happy ending is too facile, but I grew to like the main character and was rooting for her throughout the book. ( )
  etxgardener | Jan 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
See, Lisaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allwine, AlexandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bobb, JeremyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenn, KimikoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miles, Ruthie AnnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Osmanski, JoyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walton, EmilyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wevers, SylviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilhelmi, ErinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zackman, GabraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play . . .
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give her broken tiles to play . . . 
Book of Songs (1000-700 B.C.)
In memory of my mother, Carolyn See
First words
"No coincidence, no story," my a-ma recites, and that seems to settle everything, as it usually does, after First Brother finishes telling us about the dream he had last night.
A spark lights a fire. Water sprouts a seed. The Akha way tells us that a single moment changes destinies.
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"A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple. Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate--the first automobile any of them have seen--and a stranger arrives. In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city. After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley's happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family's destiny for generations. A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters"--"A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple"--… (more)

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