In this novel about familial connections and racial equality, Lily Owens and Rosaleen, Lily's housekeeper, run away to Tiburon, South Carolina. There, they move in with three beekeeping sisters who may have known Lily’s mother.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
This informational text discusses the events that led up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Introduce “Civil Rights Act of 1964” before students begin the novel in order to provide them with historical background on the setting. Ask students to consider how the issues of discrimination and segregation are present throughout the book, and how characters react to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in Chapter 1.
In the informational text “Orphans’ Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape a Child’s Brain,” Jon Hamilton explains how the neglect children experience in orphanages can impact their brain development.
Have students read “Orphans Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape a Child’s Brain” after completing Chapter 1 to provide background on parental neglect and child development. Ask students to consider how T. Ray’s parenting has affected Lily’s development, as well as how Lily’s mother’s absence affects her, in the context of the article. Revisit this discussion when students have finished the novel, taking into consideration how Lily’s mother did abandon her, how T. Ray gives Lily up, and how Lily finds an adoptive family that appreciates her.
In “The Blue-Eyed, Brown-Eyed Exercise,” third grade teacher Jane Elliot conducted a social experiment to teach her students about prejudice and discrimination.
Have students read “The Blue-Eyed, Brown-Eyed Exercise” after reading Chapter 2 as background on discrimination during the 1960s. Ask students to evaluate how discrimination operates in Lily’s town. Does Rosaleen respond to discrimination like the brown-eyed children in the experiment? Explain your answer using evidence from both texts.
In his article, “Adolescence and the Teenage Crush,” Dr. Carl Pickhardt delineates between different types of teenage crushes. According to his analysis, having a crush on someone is a normal part of adolescence.
Introduce students to “Adolescence and the Teenage Crush” after they read Chapter 7 as background on adolescent crushes like the one Lily feels towards Zach. Ask students to discuss Lily and Zach’s budding romance in the context of this article — do they think Lily has an identity crush or a romantic crush on Zach? Why is the difference significant? Why is her overall crush on Zach significant?
The informational text “Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions” discusses the court case that invalidated laws preventing interracial marriages, as well as the status of interracial relationships today.
Have students read “Loving Decision: 40 years of Legal Interracial Unions” after completing Chapter 7 to provide students with historical context on mixed-race couples. Ask students to consider, in the context of the article, whether they believe Lily and Zach’s attraction to one another is dangerous for them, as a young Black man and white woman in South Carolina in 1964. Do they need to be cautious, or are they safe because of their age?
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms,” the speaker describes eating peaches in the summertime.
Have students read “From Blossoms” after reading the novel to focus on the themes of fulfillment and joy, as well as the symbolism used throughout the novel. Ask students to discuss how the message of the poem compares to the message of the book in regards to these themes. Also ask students to compare the symbols of peaches and blossoms in the poem to bees in the book — How are these symbols similar in terms of their treatment in the texts? In terms of the themes they reveal?
The impetus for and impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are discussed in this informational text.
Have students read “The Voting Rights Act of 1965” after finishing the novel in order to focus on the political arc of the novel within its larger historical context. Ask students to discuss how the Voting Rights Act — which was signed within a year of the novel’s end — affects their interpretation of the progress that has been made in the realm of civil rights. Ask students to discuss the historic changes to civil rights, citing evidence from both texts.