“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan elegantly weaves together the stories of Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. | Image courtesy: Novelr
As a child, I’d curl up next to Mom on the couch and she’d read to me aloud. There was a constant stream of stories and picture books. One rested on a high shelf next to the fire place out of reach. Gorgeous swoops of color swirled over its cover sleeve. With its hardback, I knew it was special. It turned out to be “The Moon Lady,” and that’s how I came to know Amy Tan and my first Asian American writer.
Now more than two decades later, I turn to her first novel.
My copy of the The Joy Luck Club is dogeared and battered. Whoever had it before me, likely my parents, loved and read it well. As did I when I read it before Christmas.
It elegantly weaves together narratives of Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. The structure is brilliant. It delicately skips from generation to generation, country to country, and character to character. I love how you can feel the poetic shift between Chinese and American frames of thinking through the way the prose is delivered.
My parents said they laughed and cried when they saw the movie (on my list of things to watch) because it reminded them so much of our own family.
Now having read the book, I have to say I’m surprised. It doesn’t remind me of our family, not exactly. The characters in the book don’t share the same geographies as ours. They’re based in the California Bay Area, but our family is all over the American West. Their characters have different types of jobs and talents than our family.
Yet beneath these superficialities there’s connective tissue. “As much as I used to think Grandma was pretty eccentric, I guess all Chinese women are that way,” Mom told me. “Her expressions, her traditions. She had her ways of doing things.”