Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Event Recap

I was fortunate enough to meet Lisa See at the Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. I have been reading See's books ever since 2005 when Snow Flower and the Secret Fan came out. See is one of the very few adult fiction authors that I love. I have always had a fascination with historical fiction and books about Chinese culture ever since I read part of the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan back in 2001.

Prior to the event, I already read an e-ARC version of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and fell in love! The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is now my favorite book written by See. This book is fantastic for all ages and for those who want to learn more about the Akha ethnic group living in Yunnan China as well as the origins of Pu-erh tea. Check out my review for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane here.

I arrived at Brookline Booksmith around 6:30ish and not many of the chairs were filled. I would say there were about six or so people waiting for the event. Closer to 6:55 pm, many of the seats were filled. See started her talk with an introduction about her research and inspiration for the book. She went to the movie theaters with her husband one day in Santa Monica and saw a Caucasian couple with an Asian adopted daughter. See saw the love between the family.

See's books are often about the relationships and emotions of mothers and daughters, which I love reading about. See managed to do a lot of research regarding transnational adoption and China's one child policy while being able to delve into the history of tea and the Tea Horse Road of Yunnan. The process of how Pu-erh tea came to be was an accident. Tea fermented when the tea was being traded from China to Tibet. The different levels in humidity and the temperatures along with the snow added in the creation of  Pu-erh.  Pu-erh tea became highly popular in Hong Kong and Guangzhou for Dim Sum.

See had the pleasure meeting the biggest importer of Pu-erh tea in China and was able to see the tea picking in action during the prime time of tea picking season. For The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, See researched 27 ethnic minority groups in Yunnan. In China, 95% of the people are part of the Han majority while the 5% represents 55 ethnic minorities. After settling on writing about the Akha people, See was able to visit a village and learn about their culture.

See's favorite chapter of the novel is the group therapy session when Hayley is in a round table discussion with other adoptees from China. See was able to reach out to 18-year-old to 22-year-old women who are adopted from China regarding their adoption process for accurate emotions and responses for Hayley's portion of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Many of the women wrote long responses, some even up to 50 pages. Many were conflicted with their identity. Are they Chinese? American? Chinese American? Or are they something else?

See discussed a little bit of her ancestry and how her great grandfather worked on the transcontinental railroad and how you identify yourself with people around you. Charlotte, a college-aged young lady in the audience, has been corresponding with See for quite some time about her adoption experience and how she identifies herself. Charlotte's mother spoke about the adoption process and also how Charlotte was able to meet her birth parents via Skype. It was an exhilarating and overwhelming experience since it's very hard for children to reconnect with their birth parents. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is one of the deepest books written about a mother's and a daughter's love. It was mentioned during the talk that motherly love is when you "take pain and [you] carry it in the heart."

I was able to meet See and gush about how I have been reading her books since Snow Flower and the Secret Fan came out. See is one of the authors I have been wanting to meet in my life time and I relished the fact I got to meet her.

No comments:

Post a Comment