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Kidd, Sue Monk.
New York : Viking, 2002.
ISBN 0670894605

(5 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Lily Owens at the age of four killed her mother.  She remembers a struggle between her mother and father, her mother grabbing a gun from the closet, her father knocking it from her mother’s hands, and the gun sliding across the floor.  Lilly remembers scrambling for the gun, then a loud bang.   For the past ten years Lily has carried the guilt that she is responsible for her mother’s death.  Now fourteen, Lily is a lonely child who does not fit in at school.  Her father is abusive, showing Lily no love that she longs for.  Rosaleen, a loving black woman Lily’s father brought in from the peach fields, is raising her.  Lily’s greatest treasure, something that had been her mother’s, is a picture of a black Mary, mother of Jesus, glued on a piece of wood with “Tiburon, S. C” written on the back.

                       Lily’s adventure begins when Rosaleen is put in jail for spitting on a white man’s shoes.  Worried that Rosaleen will be killed while in jail, Lily breaks Rosaleen out of jail and the two of them leave the peach farm and Lily’s abusive father to head for the only town Lily knows ­ Tiburon, S. C.  In Tiburon, Lily discovers that the picture of the black Mary is from the label of honey jars, sold by three black sisters who raise honeybees just outside of town.  What is the connection between these women and her mother?  Why did Lily’s mother have the picture of the black Mary?  Will Lily’s father find them?  Will Rosaleen’s identity be discovered as an escaped prisoner?  Did Lily really kill her mother or has her father allowed her to take the blame all these years? Read The Secret Life of Bees to find the answers to these questions --- and learn about the secret life of bees.  (Rebecca Elswick,, CLIS student USC)

Booktalk #2

It's the summer of 1964 an Lily Owen is turing 14.  This is a time of strife in the world.  The Cuban missle crisis has people convinced that atomic war is just around the corner.  The Civil Rights movement is in full swing and the people of the south are seeing their way of life changing forever.  Blacks are registering to vote and demanding equal rights.  And through it all, Lily yearns for the love of her parents.  Her mother died 10 years ago and her father is a bitter, angry man who abuses Lily.  He has hired Rosaleen, a Black woman from the fields, to care for Lily and they have grown very close through the years.  But now everything is changing.  Rosaleen is arrested on her way to register to vote.  Lily breaks her out of jail and the two set off.  Not knowing where to go, Lily clings to a picture she found in her mother's belongins.  A picture of a Black Madonna with the words "Tiburon, S.C." written on the back.  Tiburon, S.C.  Will Lily find the answers to her questions there?  Can she run away from the memories that haunt her every day?  The memory of the day she shot her mother.

Booktalk #3

Grits and Good old T-Ray. My father and his favorite punishment! He'd sprinkle grits on the floor and have me get down on my hands and knees and stay there until he figured I'd done enough to suit the crime. I just thought that was the way things were done, and didn't think twice about it anymore. I'd learned to suffer through and go on with my life.

Then came the time when I accompanied Rosaleen into town to vote. The civil rights act had just passed, and it was her first chance to vote. But, when the white trash started making comments and Rosaleen lost her temper and spilt tobacco juice over their feet...welllll...we ended up in jail, with Rosaleen beat up pretty bad.

T-Ray came and bail me out, and it was grits time.

A little history. My mom died when I was about four, and T-Ray, was left to raise me. Actually, Rosaleen did more of the raising of me. T-Ray hired her to care for me. My mom had run off and come back and was packing up some things when T-Ray had barged in and they started yell'n and mom picked up a gun, and then the gun was on the floor and they were yell'n more and I picked up the gun...and...there was an explosion, and that's all I remember.

But now, Rosaleen was in jail and T-Ray said that likely one of those she'd 'offended' was likely to kill her, and so I decided that I needed to get her out of there. I also decided that I'd had enough of T-Ray at age 14, and that we'd both be better off living somewhere else.

One of the few possessions I still had from my mother was a picture with the words Tiburon, South Carolina written on the back. She must have been to Tiburon, so maybe they'd know something about her there. I had a destination. Now all I had to do was get Rosaleen out.

When I went to the jail, she'd been beaten once again to the point that she'd been transferred to the hospital. I told good stories, and was able to talk my way in to see her. Then, it was a simple matter of an emergency phone call to the deputy on duty, disguising my voice and getting him out of the way.

Then all I had to do was convince Rosaleen to follow me out of the hospital and into our future...and the bees.
Sam Marsh for The Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award

Booktalk #4

The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit.  Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me.  I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed.  I know it is presumptuous to compare my small life to hers, but I have reason to believe she wouldn’t mind; I will get to that.  Right now it’s enough to say that despite everything that happened that summer, I remain tender toward the bees.

Lily Owens, 14 years old, is haunted by the death of her mother 10 years earlier.  Lily lives with her abusive father.  She has Rosaleen, a strong proud black woman who helps take care of her.  Following a racial fight, Rosaleen and Lily set off on a journey to Tiburon, SC where they meet the August, June, and May Boatwright, makers of Black Madonna Honey.   The “calendar sisters” help Lily piece her past and deal with her future.  Read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd to find out what happens to Lily and Rosaleen.  (Pam Newton,  South Carolina Book Awards, 2006)

Booktalk #5

                    How would you deal with knowing that you were responsible for your mother‘s death?  What if you were only four-years-old when it all happened?  That is exactly what 14 year-old Lily Owens has been dealing with for the past ten years.  All she remembers about that fateful day is there was a fight going on between her mother and father.  Her mother grabbed a gun from the closet, her father knocked it from her mother’s hands, and the gun slid across the floor. Lilly remembers wanting to help her mother as she was scrambling for the gun, then there was a loud blast. She has been carrying the burden of guilt for her mother‘s death with her every day since. Lily, now a teenager, is a lonely girl, who does not fit in at school. Her abusive father doesn‘t show Lily the least bit of love or affection.  The only person, who seems to care about her is Rosaleen, a black woman Lily’s father brought in from the peach fields, to help raise her. Lily’s greatest treasure, is a tin box that contains a few of her mother’s possessions; a pair of white gloves,  a photograph of her mother, and a picture of a black Mary, mother of Jesus, glued on a piece of wood with “Tiburon, S. C” written on the back.

                     It is the summer of 1964 and President Johnson has just signed the Civil Rights Act. This has inspired Rosaleen to register to vote.  Lily decided to accompany Rosaleen on her way to Sylvan to register.  On the outskirts of town,  Rosaleen is taunted by three racists.  Rosaleen doesn't back down and the bloody skirmish results in Rosaleen and Lily being hauled off to jail.  Later when Lily’s angry father bails her out, she learns that Rosaleen’s life is in grave danger. That’s when she formulates a plan that would free Rosaleen and allow her to escape from her bitter and oppressive dad.  Lily had been longing to go to Tiburon for some time to see if anyone there knew anything about her mother.  Rosaleen and Lily agree to start walking in that direction hoping that they will be able to hitch a ride.  Do they get to Tiburon, or do the police and Lily‘s father catch up to them?  Will Lily ever find the answers to her questions about her mother? Will she ever be free of the haunting memories surrounding her mother’s death?  (Cathy Hesselink,,  CLIS student, USC)

SUBJECTS:     Teenagers -- South Carolina -- Fiction.
                        Women -- South Carolina -- Fiction.
                        Racism -- South Carolina -- Fiction.
                        Beekeeping -- Fiction.
                        Historical fiction.


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