By Frances Hui
This year’s selection for Malden Reads 2019, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, was feted last month during a celebration of Lunar New Year and the coming of the Year of Pig in a day-long event that featured Asian cultural performances, workshops, artwork exhibitions and refreshments at Malden High School.
The Jan. 26 event, sponsored by the Chinese Culture Connection (CCC), Malden Reads and the high school’s Asian Culture Club, drew more than 100 people, including Mayor Gary Christenson and other Malden officials.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is about a journey of a Li-yan, a young woman from a minority tribe in China, who gives up her child for adoption. At times, the story cuts between her life and her adopted child’s life in California. Li-yan eventually moves beyond the limited education of the rest of her community, leaves her traditional village, and begins to experience the modern world in the cities of China, where she becomes an integral part of the tea trade. The book is about many things: tradition meets modern times, mother-daughter relationships, education, adoption, the intersection of cultures, the search for love and acceptance, the role of coincidence in our human stories, and of course, tea.
“It’s a very engaging story,” said June MacDonald, a steering committee member of Malden Reads. “I was sorry to have it come to an end.”
Malden Reads is a community-based program that asks the question, “What if all of Malden read the same book?” It is organized by a dynamic group of volunteers in collaboration with the Malden Public Library and MATV, Malden’s Media Center. The program, which began in 2011, is now in its 9th year. The goals of the program are to promote literacy and a love of reading and to build community in the city of Malden.
Lunar New Year is a traditional festival in many Asian countries that celebrates the beginning of the year based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Families and friends reunite during the festival, marked with traditional food and “red envelopes” given to children. This year’s Lunar New Year was from Feb. 5–19.
Bouncing on the stage in lion costumes , students from Wah Lum Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy kicked off a series of performances at Malden High School with a lion dance, a form of traditional dance in which performers mimic lion movements to bring good luck to the new year.
Academy Instructor Mai Du said the young team of performers were very excited to perform and support the event as part of the community.
“Our students have been here performing and supporting the celebration of Lunar Chinese New Year all these years … since CCC has been putting up the celebration for the Malden community,” Du said. “This is one of the performances we do in Boston – it’s nice to kick it off with our home community in Malden.”
Other performances included traditional Chinese dancers, traditional and modern Chinese music, K-Pop (Korean pop music) and Korean hip-hop.
Six workshops were held in the second half of the event to highlight a variety of Chinese cultural knowledge, including a tea demonstration, calligraphy and Chinese medicine.
The workshop, “Asian-American Stereotypes: Misconception of Representation,” was presented by a group of Asian-American students from Malden High School and Boston Latin High School and focused on how stereotypical misconceptions by non-Asians affected their life growing up in America.
Thomas Tran, the group coordinator and a speaker from Boston Latin High School, shared his family’s story of fleeing from Vietnam during wartime.
“My grandparent just worked so much for our future. They went to America because they want their grandchildren to have more opportunity,” Tran said. “From there, we just took off. I am really grateful for my parents and my grandparents … so that the next generation can be free to do what we want.”
Another speaker Hilary Wong, a student from Boston Latin High School, said she believes that social stereotypes about racial minorities, such as how Asian-Americans are labeled as a “model minority,” can pull people apart.
“From a social justice standpoint, I think we can all benefit from imagining talking to people … and knowing that they have their own struggles … and to make sure that we don’t let these struggles separate us,” Wong said. “We all make progress when we stand together as a group.”
A number of activities are planned for Malden Reads 2019.
“We have movie plans, book discussion plans, Skype conversation with authors, some community dinners in local area restaurants, and storytelling,” MacDonald said. “That’s just a few.”
Upcoming events include:
- Book Discussion for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Dockside Restaurant, 229 Center St., led by Malden Reads co-facilitator Anne D’Urso-Rose.
- Community Dinner and Discussion, Tuesday, March 5, 7 to 9 p.m., Infused Kreyol, 423 Main St. Malden.
- Film screening of “King of Masks” at the Malden Public Library
- Book Discussion led by Mayor Christenson, on Wednesday, March 20, 6:30pm, Malden Public Library
- Citizens Lyceum centered around the “Chinese Exclusion Act” at the Malden Public Library on March 26, 6:30pm
- Malden Reads Night at Boda Borg on March 13
- An interfaith Worship Service based on the themes of “Tea Girl” at First Parish of Malden on March 24, 10:30am
- “Storytelling at the Sun Kong” – Buffet dinner at the Sun Kong Restaurant with “Stories Only You Can Tell,” personal stories shared by community members under the direction of CD Collins, a local author and spoken word artist
- A Skype conversation with author Lisa See on April 23 at 6:30pm at the library.
- “Sunset, Storytelling, and Stargazing” on Waitt’s Mount in Malden
- Programs & activities in the Malden Public Schools
.Details about all the program and events can be found at maldenreads.org.
Watch some video highlights of the event! Thank you to videographers Sal Khan, Diti Kohli, Frances Hui, and Sammy Lee. Video edited by Claire Foley.