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Four mothers four daughters four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's telling the stories In 1949 four Chinese women recent immigrants to San Francisco meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures they call themselves the Joy Luck Club Their daughters who have never heard these stories think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives – until their own inner crises reveal how much they've unknowingly inherited of their mothers' pasts With wit and sensitivity Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful often tender and always deep connection between mothers and daughters As each woman reveals her secrets trying to unravel the truth about her life the strings become tangled entwined Mothers boast or despair over daughters and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties Tan is an astute storyteller enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery


10 thoughts on “The Joy Luck Club

  1. says:

    During high school when I did not have the life experience to fully appreciate her work I read each of Amy Tan's books as they came out Now years later with many other books and various experiences under my belt I reread The Joy Luck Club Tan's first book as part of my March Women's History Month lineup Following her mother's death June Mei Woo has replaced her mother Suyuan at her monthly mah jong game Suyuan started this game and Joy Luck Club when she first immigrated to the United States as a way to maintain her Chinese culture in a new country The other families who joined her the Hsus Jongs and St Claires became like family as together they celebrated festivals children's birthdays and indoctrinated the next generation in Chinese culture Yet June Mei and her friends from the group Waverly Rose and Lena for the most part were interested in achieving the American dream often times at the expense of their mothers who worked hard to preserve their Chinese cultural existence It is also only at these meetings that these four ladies could pour out the sorrows of the life they left behind in China including extended families who stayed in villages while these fortunate ones moved to Shanghai and Hong Kong and then to the United States Away from these intimate gatherings even the daughters of these women did not know much about their mothers' lives in China It is at the opening of the book that June Mei finds out that her mother had twin daughters in China who she abandoned as babies and after all these years they have been found Much to June Mei's chagrin the older women urge her to travel to China to meet her sisters and teach them about their mother's heritage While much about immigration experience The Joy Luck Club is also about both the younger and older generation's path to self discovery Tan uses a vignette format to alternate stories between the younger and older women with June Mei's voice serving as a voice between the two I enjoyed learning about life in pre revolutionary rural China and the hardships that drove the Chinese to immigrate in the first place Once in the United States however the protagonists strove to preserve the same language food culture of the China that they were quick to leave behind The fact that none of their daughters chose to marry Chinese men attests to the generation gap between first and second generation immigrants of any ethnic group As in many cases when the children move toward middle age then they become interested in their parents' heritage as is the case here Unfortunately it does change the gap that had been created when the children shunned their culture in exchange for life as normal Americans When published The Joy Luck Club was an innovative look at Chinese immigrants and how being Chinese changes with each generation Tan has encouraged an entire generation of Chinese American writers who we can enjoy today and now there are a plethora of cultural groups writing about their immigrant experience I recently read as part of a buddy read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and many of the participants noted that Lahiri's writing is much like Tan's a generation later Talking about how Indian culture changes from one generation to the next Lahiri does seem much as Tan the torch bearer for this style of writing That the Joy Luck Club has been an on the same page selection in multiple cities as well as studied in schools speaks to its enduring qualities I look forward to revisiting Tan's other books again and rate The Joy Luck Club 4 bright stars