The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

the-joy-luck-clubIn 1949, four Chinese women — recent immigrants to San Francisco — begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club.

My mom insisted I read Tan’s novel, but it was only after I saw it on the AP Lit reading list that I decided to concede to my mother’s request. And I’m glad I did because The Joy Luck Club is a beautifully written book that’s insightful without coming across as overly academic and stuffy.

“And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of sue are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way.” (pg. 215)

Amy Tan’s writing style really drawls you in and she does a fantastic job of establishing voices for all eight characters, no easily feat I’m sure. True, twice I had to check the name to make sure I was connecting the right mother and daughter, but each character is clearly their own person with their own experiences and struggles.

“And I want to tell her this: We are lost, she and I, unseen and not seeing, unheard and not hearing, unknown by others.” (pg. 67)

The Joy Luck Club is about mother-daughter relationships. But despite being completely rooted in Chinese culture, I could still understand what Tan was trying to explain through each of the mother’s relationships with their respective daughters.

“But inside I am becoming ashamed. I am ashamed she is ashamed. Because she is my daughter and I am proud of her, and I am her mother but she I not proud of me.” (pg. 255)

Still, some of women’s stories bored me and a couple frustrated me with their “do as I say, not as I do” attitudes. I realize that this is a somewhat common philosophy among mothers, but I couldn’t help but to yell at these women for criticizing their own daughters as they chose their own courses, when some of them did the exact same thing in China.

Book Mentioned:

  • Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin, 2006. Originally published 1989. Print. 288 pgs. ISBN: 0143038095. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Retrieved: December 6, 2008.

One comment

  1. I think that the frustration with the older generation, who you’re right were doing the same thing as their moms, was the whole point. Mothering is a circle, and no matter how much a woman swears she won’t nag, she’ll end up doing it.

    Thanks for this review. It’s been a long time since I read this!


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