In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, how is Lily affected by June?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, after Lily Owens helps Rosaleen escape from her police-guarded hospital room, they make their way to Tiburon, which is a name on the back of a black Madonna portrait that had belonged to Lily's mother when alive. Once in Tiburon, Lily discovers jars of honey with labels depicting the same black Madonna portrait being sold in a grocery store and finds out the honey is made by the Boatwrights. The pair next make their way to the Boatwrights' and are invited to stay for a while once Lily lies that her father died in a tractor accident and they are trying to make their way to relatives in Virginia because they have no other place to go.

The Boatwrights consist of three African-American sisters: August, May, and June. Both August and May are very warm and receptive to Lily and Rosaleen. Lily even senses that May feels deeply empathetic toward others' suffering. However, Lily doesn't sense the same warm reception from June. In fact, one day, Lily hears June express to August feelings of doubt about letting Lily stay. First, she argues that Lily's father may not have really died in a tractor accident and may be looking for her, but August's only reply is that she senses Lily is in some sort of trouble. When August encourages June to be patient, saying that Lily will reveal her troubles in due time, June protests, "But she's white, August." It's at that moment that Lily realizes June is not receiving her warmly simply because June distrusts her due to the color of her skin.

June's prejudice against Lily makes Lily feel very angery and uncomfortable, especially while Lily and Rosaleen are watching news stories about racial violence with the three sisters. Later, the Daughters of Mary come to the Boatwright house for a Sunday worship service. All but Lily, including Rosaleen, touch the red heart painted on the statue of the black Madonna the sisters own while June plays "Amazing Grace" on the cello. When Lily tries to touch it too, June stops playing. Lily feels devastated about being excluded, devastated and overwhelmed by the religious experience to the extent that she faints.

Hence, one way in which Lily is affected by June concerns June's racism. Due to June's racism, Lily feels ostracized, angered, and hurt.

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