Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 4.5 stars
Lisa See's latest book documents the lives and traditions of the Akha, a lesser known ethnic minority who live in the Nannuo mountains of China. Li-Yan is the daughter of the local midwife and who grows up learning the traditions and life cycle revolving around tea. When love, an outsider, and an opportunity to be the first educated girl in her village comes knocking she is torn between her traditions and her future.
Lisa See does a brilliant job conveying the difficult and complex life of the Akha people, who are so remote that few in China even know they exist. So remote that it took decades for them to even be aware of the "one child policy". Yet their lives changed drastically when their regional tea, known as Pu-ehr, became sought after world wide. She also weaves together the difficulty Chinese immigrants, especially adoptees, have in navigating between being Chinese and also being American. Although this book started slowly, it unfolded beautifully. I have always been interested in tea but The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane gave me a tremendous new appreciation for tea culture.