Each year, the Malden Reads committee selects a book for the school district along with the community to read. For the upcoming year, the book chosen as the main selection is Lisa See’s psychological fiction novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.
The title of the novel is a specific reference to the origin story of the main character, Li-yan, who “grows up on Hummingbird Lane in California, but starts all the way back in China,” as explained by Jodie Zalk, one of the co-founders and co-facilitators of the Malden Reads committee. Zalk continues on to describe that the setting which Li-yan and her family live in is rural, with mountains and a “very remote” community.
Essentially, the novel tells the story of Li-yan during her adolescent years, as she ends up “having to give away her baby [who] ends up on Hummingbird Lane.” Zalk describes the novel as “a really interesting story about how tea grows,” a story about the different cultures and connections within China, especially the relationship between mothers and daughters.
After selecting several different genres of books over past years, Zalk along with the rest of the committee realized they had the important opportunity to bring awareness and focus to the Asian community, which a book like The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane would be able to accomplish.
Zalk also revealed that Malden Reads will be collaborating with the Chinese Culture Connection for an upcoming Chinese New Year celebration. Another theme that Malden Reads plans to address is the relationship between mothers and daughters and how adoption shapes motherhood.
Committee member Martha Bezzat added that Malden Reads has “ been hoping for a long time to have a book that celebrates Chinese culture,” to not only work within the Chinese community but to also “ honor their heritage.”
For the students within the Malden Public School district, the main book will be offered at the High School with other companion books for the lower grades. The committee really wanted to select books that “each of the different levels of students can read and interact with,” while reflecting that same theme as the main book.
Overall, what Malden Reads hopes to accomplish with this main selection is to have “a rich celebration of the Chinese culture“ and to bridge the gap between the communities together.