The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See
In this fascinating book, Lisa See sheds light on Chinese culture, tea plantations, and China’s one-child policy.
The main character, Li-yan, is a member of the Akha people, an indigenous tribe living in the mountains of China, as well as neighboring countries like Thailand.
Li-yan’s family are tea planters and pickers in a remote village largely untouched by time. Her only knowledge of the outside world comes from her lessons at the local school where she is one of the best students. As she grows older, she is encouraged by her teacher to seek further education. But hormones intervene and she finds herself pregnant out of wedlock. She has no choice but to give her baby to an orphanage where the child is adopted by an American couple.
In a sense, the book is a twin-stranded story line, though the parts involving her daughter Haley are pretty sketchy until the girl grow older. In the meantime, Li-yan’s life tracks the progress of Westernization in China, including a bubble in the tea market. Despite the ups and downs and success of her life, Li-yan never forgets her daughter, who longs to one day meet her mother.
I loved this book. The glimpses into another culture were fascinating, if at times appalling. Some of the Akha superstitions were understandable but some were just silly and others downright cruel. Li-yan is a strong female character, and I enjoyed watching her mature. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in China and anyone who loves good women’s fiction.
Dear FCC, I checked this book out of the public library.
What have you read lately?
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