New York Times best-selling author Lisa See will visit the Troy Community Center at 7 p.m. April 17. 

New York Times best-selling author Lisa See will visit the Troy Community Center at 7 p.m. April 17. 

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Best-selling author Lisa See to speak in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 10, 2018

TROY — New York Times best-selling author Lisa See said she got the inspiration for her latest book, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” while standing in line for a movie.

She saw a Chinese girl with a long, swinging ponytail walking with her adoptive parents. 

“The ponytail reminded me of a fox’s tail, and I had a vision of a fox spirit,” she said. See explained that her family immigrated from China many years ago, and in China, the fox spirit is “naughty and mischievous, but in its best moments brings great love and creates family.” 

See said she sensed that the girl brought great love to her parents and created family. See went on to explore the mother-daughter connection in “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” although she said the fox spirit idea did not make it into the book. 

See will talk about her inspiration, research and books when she visits the Troy Community Center at 7 p.m. April 17. 

Troy Public Library Director Cathy Russ said the program, funded by the Friends of the Troy Public Library, is part of the library’s author series and ties in with the Know Your Neighbor Daily initiative. 

Know Your Neighbor Daily is an initiative sponsored by the Troy Public Library, the city of Troy, the Global Troy Advisory Committee, and other civic and school organizations. Russ said its purpose is to schedule events and programs that bring together the diverse members of the community and promote greater understanding among neighbors.

“Troy is such a multicultural community. Her books are so popular, and we had the opportunity to schedule her,” Russ said. 

See has also authored “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” “Peony in Love,” “Shanghai Girls,” “Dreams of Joy” and “China Dolls,” all of which explore the strong bonds between women.  

According to a prepared statement from the Troy Public Library, See’s books have been “celebrated for their authentic, deeply researched, lyrical stories about Chinese characters and cultures. In ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,’ See incorporates exhaustive research on international adoption, the history of the Akha people in China, and pu’er tea farming and customs to tell a powerful story about a family separated by circumstances, culture and distance.”

See said a common thread in her novels is mothers and daughters, and female best friends.  

“We tend to learn history in terms of wars and dates, presidents, prime ministers and generals. Women, children and families have been there every step of the way,” See said. “I’m interested in stories that have been lost, forgotten or deliberately covered up.” 

See said she’s curious about the complexity of female relationships. “I feel not a whole lot has been written about it.” 

See said “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” has “at its heart a mother-daughter story. This is a universal relationship. It’s universal and also unique. I’ve enjoyed exploring that.” 

Although she had been “quietly collecting things for a long time” for “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” she did “a solid year of research” for the book, including a trip to China. 

While she understood the Sze Yup dialect her ancestors spoke in China as a child, she now only understands words for food. She studied Mandarin for four years.  See said she doesn’t need much help in the big cities in China because of the number of English speakers, more than there are in all of North America. See hires guides in the smaller towns. 

Her next book, titled at press time “Island of Sea Women,” which will be released next year, explores the matrifocal — mother as the head of the household — society of an island off the tip of South Korea, Jeju Island, where the women are the breadwinners and deep sea divers who harvest seafood. 

“In the ’70s, 40,000 women lived there,” See said.  “Now there are 4,000 left. They used to retire (from sea diving) at 55. Now the youngest one is 55. In 15 years, the culture will be gone from the world. It was incredible to meet these women.” 

She said she became aware of the culture from a one-paragraph piece she read in a magazine in a doctor’s office waiting room eight years ago. 

See said she will leave time to answer questions during her program at the library. “I love the questions. I really like going out on tour.” 

“Cathy (Russ) has been able to bring in amazing authors,” said Sue Matthews, president of the Friends of the Troy Public Library. “Every member of our community benefits.” 

Matthews noted that 95 percent of the money the Friends raise goes to the library. 

The Friends operate the Book Shop in the library basement 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays, as well as the Friends Shop in the lobby. 

People can register for the program at or by calling (248) 524-3534. 

The Troy Community Center is located at 3179 Livernois Road.