Amy Tan

Amy Tan (born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese American experience. Her novel The Joy Luck Club was adapted into a film in 1993 by director Wayne Wang.

Tan has written several other novels, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement. Tan's latest book is a memoir entitled Where The Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir (2017).[1] In addition to these, Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series that aired on PBS.

Despite her success, Tan has also received substantial criticism for her depictions of Chinese culture and apparent adherence to stereotypes.[2][3]

Amy Tan
Tan in 2007
Tan in 2007
BornAmy Tan
February 19, 1952 (age 66)
Oakland, California, U.S.
Alma materSan Jose State University (BA, MA)
UC Santa Cruz & UC Berkeley (dropped out)
Notable worksThe Joy Luck Club (1989)
Amy Tan
Traditional Chinese譚恩美
Simplified Chinese谭恩美
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinTán Ēnměi
Yue: Cantonese
JyutpingTaam4 Jan1mei5

Personal life

Tan was born in Oakland, California. She is the second of three children born to Chinese immigrants John and Daisy Tan. Her father was an electrical engineer and Baptist minister who traveled to the United States in order to escape the chaos of the Chinese Civil War.[4][5] Tan attended Marian A. Peterson High School in Sunnyvale for one year. When she was fifteen years old, her father and older brother Peter both died of brain tumors within six months of each other.[6]

Daisy subsequently moved Amy and her younger brother, John Jr., to Switzerland, where Amy finished high school at the Institut Monte Rosa, Montreux.[7] During this period, Amy learned about her mother's previous marriage to another man in China, of their four children (a son who died as a toddler and three daughters), and how her mother left these children behind in Shanghai. This incident was the basis for Tan's first novel The Joy Luck Club.[5] In 1987, Amy traveled with Daisy to China. There, Amy met her three half-sisters.[8]

Tan had a difficult relationship with her mother. At one point, Daisy held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her while the two were arguing over Amy's new boyfriend. Her mother wanted Tan to be independent, stressing that Tan needed to make sure she was self-sufficient. Tan later found out that her mother had three abortions while in China. Daisy often threatened to kill herself, saying that she wanted to join her mother (Tan's grandmother, who also committed suicide).[9] She attempted suicide but never succeeded.[9] Daisy died in 1999.[10]

Tan and her mother did not speak for six months after Tan dropped out of the Baptist college her mother had selected for her, Linfield College in Oregon, to follow her boyfriend to San Jose City College in California.[5][11][12] Tan met him on a blind date and married him in 1974.[6][11][12] Tan later received bachelor's and master's degrees in English and linguistics from San Jose State University. She also participated in doctoral studies in linguistics at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley, but abandoned her doctoral studies in 1976.[13]

While in school, Tan worked odd jobs—serving as a switchboard operator, carhop, bartender, and pizza maker—before starting a writing career. As a freelance business writer, she worked on projects for AT&T, IBM, Bank of America, and Pacific Bell, writing under non-Chinese-sounding pseudonyms.[6]

While Tan was studying at Berkeley, her roommate was murdered, and Tan had to identify the body. The incident left her temporarily mute. She claimed that every year for ten years, on the day she identified the body, she lost her voice.[14]

In 1998, Tan contracted Lyme disease, which went misdiagnosed for a few years. As a result, she suffers complications like epileptic seizures. Tan co-founded LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment.[15] She wrote about her life with Lyme disease in The New York Times.[16]

Tan also suffers from depression, for which she takes antidepressants. Part of the reason that Tan chose not to have children was a fear that she would pass on a genetic legacy of mental instability - her maternal grandmother committed suicide, her mother threatened suicide often, and she herself has struggled with suicidal ideation.[14]

Tan resides in San Francisco, California, with her husband in a house they designed "to feel open and airy, like a tree house, but also to be a place where we could live comfortably into old age" with accessibility features.[17] Tan has recently taken up drawing and has shared her art on social media.

Tan sang with the Rock Bottom Remainders before they retired from touring.

Work and themes

Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club, consists of sixteen related stories about the experiences of four Chinese American mother-daughter pairs.[18] Tan's second novel, The Kitchen God's Wife, also focuses on the relationship between an immigrant Chinese mother and her American-born daughter.[6] Tan's third novel, The Hundred Secret Senses, was a departure from the first two novels, in focusing on the relationships between sisters. Tan's fourth novel, The Bonesetter's Daughter, returns to the theme of an immigrant Chinese woman and her American-born daughter.[19]


Tan's work has been adapted into several different forms of media. The Joy Luck Club was adapted into a play in 1993; that same year, director Wayne Wang adapted the book into a film. The Bonesetter's Daughter was adapted into an opera in 2008.[20] Tan's children's book Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat was adapted into a PBS animated television show.[21]


Though she has won several awards for her work, Tan has also received substantial criticism for her "complicity in perpetuating racial stereotypes and misrepresentations as well as gross inaccuracies in recalling details of the Chinese cultural heritage".[2] Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote that Tan's novels "appear to possess the authority of authenticity but are often products of the American-born writer's own heavily mediated understanding of things Chinese".[3] Another writer stated that the popularity of Tan's work can mostly be attributed to Western consumers "who find her work comforting in its reproduction of stereotypical images".[22]

The often negative depiction of Chinese culture and Chinese men in Tan's work has raised eyebrows, with one scholar going so far as to say that the storylines of her novels "demonstrate a vested interest in casting Chinese men in the worst possible light".[23] This, in addition to the lack of cultural and historical accuracy in Tan's work, has led several writers and scholars to accuse Tan of "pandering to the popular imagination" of Westerners regarding Chinese people.[24]


Short stories


Children's books


  • Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America With Three Chords and an Attitude (with Dave Barry, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Barbara Kingsolver) (1994)
  • Mother (with Maya Angelou, Mary Higgins Clark) (1996)
  • The Best American Short Stories 1999 (Editor, with Katrina Kenison) (1999)
  • The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2003, ISBN 9780399150746)
  • Hard Listening, co-authored in July 2013, an interactive ebook about her participation in a writer/musician band, the Rock Bottom Remainders. Published by Coliloquy, LLC.[25]
  • Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir, (HarperCollins Publishers, 2017, ISBN 9780062319296 )


See also


  1. ^ Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir. New York: Ecco. 2017-10-17. ISBN 9780062319296.
  2. ^ a b Lee, Jonathan (2015). Chinese Americans: The History and Culture of a People: The History and Culture of a People. p. 334.
  3. ^ a b Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia (1995). Sugar Sisterhood: Situating the Amy Tan Phenomenon. p. 55.
  4. ^ Sherryl Connelly (February 27, 2001). "Mother As Tormented Muse Amy Tan Drew On A Dark Past For 'Daughter'". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2011-03-14. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Amy Tan Biography". Archived from the original on July 2, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Huntley, E.D. (1998). Amy Tan: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 5–7, 80. ISBN 0313302073.
  7. ^ "The Archives of my Personality", address to American Association of Museums General Session (Los Angeles), May 26, 2010
  8. ^ "Penguin Reading Guides - The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan". Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "'I Am Full Of Contradictions': Novelist Amy Tan On Fate And Family". Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  10. ^ Krug, Nora (2017-10-11). "Amy Tan talks about her new memoir, politics and why she's not always 'joy lucky'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  11. ^ a b Kinsella, Bridget (August 9, 2013). "'Fifty Shades of Tan': Amy Tan". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Tauber, Michelle (November 3, 2003). "A New Ending". People Magazine. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  13. ^ "Amy Tan Biography". Archived from the original on July 2, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  14. ^ a b Jaggi, Maya (2001-03-03). "Interview with Amy Tan". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  15. ^ Stone, Steven (August 2015). "Summertime Blues: To DEET or not to DEET...". Vintage Guitar. p. 60.
  16. ^ Amy Tan (August 11, 2013). "My Plight with the Illness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  17. ^ Tan, Amy (July 30, 2014). "Amy Tan on Joy and Luck at Home: The novelist builds a home she can grow old in". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  18. ^ "Amy Tan." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 257. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center.
  19. ^ Hoyte, Kirsten D. Contradiction and Culture: Revisiting Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" (Again). Publication. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  20. ^ Kosman, Joshua (September 15, 2008). "Opera review: 'Bonesetter's Daughter'". SF Gate. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  21. ^ "Sagwa: About the show". PBS Kids. Archived from the original on October 17, 2014.
  22. ^ Lee, Lily (2003). 中國婦女傳記詞典: The Twentieth Century, 1912-2000. p. 503.
  23. ^ Yin, Xiao-huang (2000). Chinese American Literature Since the 1850s. p. 235.
  24. ^ Huntley, E. D. (2001). Maxine Hong Kingston: A Critical Companion. p. 58.
  25. ^ "Hard Listening".
  26. ^ "National Book Awards". Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  27. ^ "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  28. ^ "APALA: 2005-2006 Awards". Archived from the original on October 16, 2014.
  29. ^ "The Big Read: The Joy Luck Club".
  30. ^ "1993-2008 Golden Plate Recipients". Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2014.

External links

Fish Cheeks

"Fish Cheeks" is a 1987 one page narrative essay by Chinese-American author Amy Tan and her first published essay. The work was first published in Seventeen and covers a Christmas Eve dinner when Tan was 14 years old. It was subsequently published as a part of The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings.The work has been used in Common Core classes and features themes of acceptance of differences, growing up, family, heritage, and cultural differences. It typically is used for seventh grade and eighth-grade classes.The work has been compared to a similar work by American chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, "Killing Dinner".

Insane Clown Poppy

"Insane Clown Poppy" is the third episode of the twelfth season of The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 12, 2000. In the episode, during an outdoor book fair, Krusty finds out he has a daughter (from a one-night stand with a woman during the Gulf War), but loses her trust after gambling away her violin to Fat Tony, prompting Homer and Krusty to retrieve it.

The episode was written by John Frink and Don Payne as their second produced episode and their first written episode. Although originally produced for season 11 the episode was held over for season 12. The episode features guest stars Jay Mohr as Christopher Walken, Stephen King as himself, Amy Tan as herself, John Updike as himself and Joe Mantegna as recurring character Fat Tony.

Drew Barrymore also guest-starred as Krusty the Clown's daughter in the episode. She told the press, "I've got to be The Simpsons' No. 1 fan, so taking part was almost as much fun as appearing in a blockbuster movie." The episode features references to Bob Hope's famous USO shows. The episode has also received negative reviews from critics.

Rock Bottom Remainders

The Rock Bottom Remainders are an American rock and roll band, consisting of published writers, most of them both amateur musicians and popular English-language book, magazine, and newspaper authors. The band took its self-mocking name from the publishing term "remaindered book", a work of which the unsold remainder of the publisher's stock of copies is sold at a reduced price. Their performances collectively raised $2 million for charity from their concerts.

The band's members have included Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Cynthia Heimel, Sam Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Joel Selvin, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, Tad Bartimus, Greg Iles, Aron Ralston and honorary member Maya Angelou among others, as well as professional musicians such as multi-instrumentalist (and author) Al Kooper, drummer Josh Kelly, guitarist Roger McGuinn and saxophonist Erasmo Paulo. Founder Kathi Kamen Goldmark died on May 24, 2012.

Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat

Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat is an educational Chinese-Canadian-American animated television series based on a 1994 novel by Amy Tan which aired on PBS Kids, produced by Canadian animation studio CinéGroupe and Sesame Street creator Sesame Workshop. In the series, which is set c. 1861-1912, during the late Qing Dynasty, Sagwa has fun in her day-to-day life while learning and teaching valuable life lessons. The show is notable for its setting and messages about family obligations and loyalty. The series was developed and produced for television by executive producers George Daugherty and Michel Lemire, and producers David Ka Lik Wong and Leon G. Arcand.The series premiered on September 3, 2001, running for one season and 40 episodes. The series was quietly cancelled in 2002, ending on October 5 of that year, but continued to air in reruns on some PBS affiliates as late as September 2008.

CinéGroupe is considering a reboot of the series according to some sources.

Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (book)

Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat is a 1994 children's book by Amy Tan. It is about a mother siamese cat telling her kittens how they obtained their distinctive seal point markings.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Saving Fish From Drowning is a 2005 novel written by Amy Tan. It is Tan's sixth work. The book is about twelve American tourists who travel to China and Burma.The novel was awarded an honorable mention from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature.

Stewart Wallace

Stewart Wallace (born 1960) is an American composer and cantor.

Wallace was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He has spent much of his career composing experimental operas, from the dance-centered Kabbalah (1989) to the surrealist Hopper's Wife (1992). Two of his operas have been premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, Where's Dick? (1989) and Harvey Milk (1995); the latter of which was based on the life of its namesake. His most recent opera, The Bonesetter's Daughter, uses a libretto by

Amy Tan which is based on her novel of the same name. The Bonesetter's Daughter premiered at the War Memorial Opera House of the San Francisco Opera in 2008.The New York City Opera announced that it would stage the East Coast premiere of Wallace's “Hopper’s Wife” — a 1997 chamber opera about an imagined marriage between the painter Edward Hopper and the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper—at Harlem Stage from April 28 through May 1, 2016.

Stranger than Fiction (compilation album)

Stranger Than Fiction is an album by various performers, most of whom are professional writers and amateur singers, released in 1998 on Kathi Kamen Goldmark's "Don't Quit Your Day Job" Records. This album is an offshoot of the Rock Bottom Remainders, aka the Wrockers ("writer" + "rocker").

The artists on Stranger Than Fiction include not only many of the Remainders, such as bestselling authors Stephen King, Amy Tan and Dave Barry, but also rock critics Dave Marsh, Ben Fong-Torres and Greil Marcus, film critic Leonard Maltin and such literary heavyweights as Norman Mailer and Maya Angelou. Warren Zevon contributed liner notes and a variety of famous musicians played on the tracks, including Zevon, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Proceeds from this project were contributed to a variety of charities promoting literature and literacy.

The Best American Short Stories 1999

The Best American Short Stories 1999, a volume in The Best American Short Stories series, was edited by Katrina Kennison and by guest editor Amy Tan.

The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Bonesetter's Daughter, published in 2003, is Amy Tan's fourth novel. Like much of Tan's work, this book deals with the relationship between an American-born Chinese woman and her immigrant mother.

The Bonesetter's Daughter is divided into two major stories. The first is about Ruth, a Chinese-American woman living in San Francisco. She worries that her elderly mother, Lu Ling, is gradually becoming more and more demented. Lu Ling seems increasingly forgetful, and makes bizarre comments about her family and her own past.

The second major story is that of Lu Ling herself, as written for Ruth. Several years earlier, Lu Ling had written out her life story in Chinese. Ruth arranges to have the document translated, and learns the truth about her mother's life in China.

Much of the novel, like Tan's previous work, is based on her relationship with her own mother, and her mother and grandmother's life stories. The first-edition cover photo is an image of Tan's grandmother Gu Jingmei, taken in about 1905.

The Bonesetter's Daughter (opera)

The Bonesetter's Daughter is an opera in a prologue and two acts by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by

Amy Tan based on her novel of the same name. It premiered on 13 September 2008 at the War Memorial Opera House of San Francisco Opera, which commissioned the work.

The Hundred Secret Senses

The Hundred Secret Senses is a bestselling 1995 novel by Chinese-American writer Amy Tan. It was published by Putnam, and was shortlisted for the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction. While the story is fictional, it is based on the experiences of Tan and on stories told by her mother.

The Joy Luck Club (film)

The Joy Luck Club (simplified Chinese: 喜福会; traditional Chinese: 喜福會; pinyin: Xǐ Fú Huì) is a 1993 American drama film about the relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers. It was directed by Wayne Wang and stars Ming-Na Wen, Rosalind Chao, Lauren Tom, Tamlyn Tomita, France Nguyen, Kieu Chinh, Lisa Lu and Tsai Chin. The film is based on the eponymous 1989 novel by Amy Tan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ronald Bass. The film was produced by Bass, Tan, Wang and Patrick Markey while Oliver Stone served as an executive producer. Four older women, all Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco, meet regularly to play mahjong, eat, and tell stories. Each of these women has an adult Chinese-American daughter. The film reveals the hidden pasts of the older women and their daughters and how their lives are shaped by the clash of Chinese and American cultures as they strive to understand their family bonds and one another.

Development of the project began when Wang approached Tan in 1989 at the time of the novel's release. Concerned about the novel's complex storytelling and character development, they teamed up with Bass in January 1990, who added a farewell party not in the original novel and voice-overs to compress the film's storytelling without changing the main plot. Carolco Pictures initially supported the project until 1990, when the filmmakers turned down the contract for not receiving the creative control that they demanded. After the first draft was written between August and November 1991, the filmmakers shifted to Hollywood Pictures in spring 1992. Principal photography took place in San Francisco, the novel and the film's main setting, in October 1992 and then in China in February 1993; filming ended in March 1993.

The film was privately screened in sneak previews in spring 1993 and film festivals in August and September 1993. It premiered in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco on September 8, 1993. With the film's $10.5 million budget, it was moderately successful in the box office, earning $33 M in the United States. It received positive critical reaction but also criticism for its negative portrayal of Asian American male characters.

The Joy Luck Club (novel)

The Joy Luck Club is a 1989 novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco who start a club known as The Joy Luck Club, playing the Chinese game of mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods. The book is structured somewhat like a mahjong game, with four parts divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters. The three mothers and four daughters (one mother, Suyuan Woo, dies before the novel opens) share stories about their lives in the form of vignettes. Each part is preceded by a parable relating to the game.

In 1993, the novel was adapted into a feature film directed by Wayne Wang and starring Ming-Na, Lauren Tom, Tamlyn Tomita, France Nguyen, Rosalind Chao, Kieu Chinh, Tsai Chin, Lisa Lu, and Vivian Wu. The screenplay was written by the author Amy Tan along with Ronald Bass. The novel was also adapted into a play, by Susan Kim, which premiered at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in New York.

The Kitchen God's Wife

The Kitchen God's Wife is the second novel by Chinese-American author, Amy Tan. First published in 1991, it deals extensively with Sino-American female identity and draws on the story of her mother's life.The book was largely considered a commercial success, making best sellers lists in several countries worldwide.

The Matrix Awards

The Matrix Awards is an annual awards ceremony held by the Association for Women in Communications. It started in 1970 to honor exceptional women in the media in the fields of arts, advertising, entertainment, film, television, theater, books, broadcasting, magazines, newspapers, public relations and new media.

Each winner is given a Matrix Award, joining past winners such Alice Walker, Eve Ensler, Katie Couric, Judy Corman, Anna Deavere Smith, Meryl Streep, Nora Ephron, Arianna Huffington, Toni Morrison, Barbara Walters, Rosie O'Donnell, Anna Quindlen, Elizabeth Winship, Meredith Vieira, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ellen DeGeneres, Christiane Amanpour, Amy Tan, Gloria Steinem, Thalía and Edie Falco.

The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement is a novel by Amy Tan. Like many of her works, it deals with mother-daughter relationship and is partly set in historical China. An excerpt from the novel was published independently as Rules for Virgins.

Two Kinds

"Two Kinds" is a short story from the book The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It was first published in 1989. The short story outlines the main character Jing-mai Woo’s childhood and the effects of her mother’s high expectations for her life. It is clear that some of the events in the short story reflect events that happened in the author’s life. For example, the main character's mother left China, leaving behind her family and children. The same is true with Amy Tan's mother. In 1993, a movie based on the book was made.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.