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Introduction to Literature. Lesson Seven: Amy tan Family Relationships. Margarette Connor. Contents. Amy Tan biography “Two Kinds” discussion. Amy Tan. Joy Luck Club ( 喜福會) One of the most highly acclaimed writers of our day. “ No one will deny the pleasure of Tan's seductive prose”.

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Introduction to literature l.jpg

Introduction to Literature

Lesson Seven: Amy tan

Family Relationships

Margarette Connor


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Contents

  • Amy Tan biography

  • “Two Kinds” discussion


Amy tan l.jpg
Amy Tan

  • Joy Luck Club

  • (喜福會)

  • One of the most highly acclaimed writers of our day.

  • “No one will deny the pleasure of Tan's seductive prose”


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Tan and Immigrant Family

  • Her parents escaped from Shanghai.

  • Her Main Topics: Generational Conflicts, War between the sexes, assimilation.

  • Told by an Chinese-American narrator, who tries to find a balance between her Chinese culture and what the American society expects of her.

  • This happened to my Egyptian students, too. They had to find a balance between their Egyptian culture and Geneva society.

  • Asian-Americans face pressures also because they look different; they are seen as ethnic others.


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Early Life

  • Born February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California.

  • Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Her family lived in several communities in Northern California before settling in Santa Clara.


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Parents

  • Father, John, an electrical engineer and Baptist minister from Beijing who fled the country for the US.

  • Mother, Daisy, who had been in an arranged marriage, was trying to flee with John.

    • Captured, raped and thrown into jail before she was able to escape.

    • Had to leave her daughters with their father.


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Early success, early tragedy

  • 8 years old became a published author

    • wrote an essay on the public library that was published in a local paper.

  • Father and oldest brother both died of brain tumors within a year of each other when she was in high school.


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Move to Switzerland

  • Mrs. Tan moved her two surviving children to Switzerland, where Amy finished high school, graduated from high school in Montreux, Switzerland.

  • During this period much friction between mother and daughter.

    • Amy Tan talks about how this was her very rebellious period


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University

  • Originally attended Baptist college in Oregon

    • chosen by mother

  • Left and followed her boyfriend to San Jose City College (California)

  • Mother and daughter did not speak for six months

  • Further defied her mother by abandoning the pre-med course mother wanted in order to study English and linguistics.

  • Received her bachelor's and master's degrees in these fields at San Jose State University.


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Marriage

  • 1974, married “the boyfriend” Louis DeMattei, to whom she’s still married.

  • Now live in San Francisco and New York.

Tan and her husband


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Earlier careers

  • Studied for a doctorate in linguistics, first at the U of California-Santa Cruz, later at Berkeley.

    • Left in 1976 without taking a degree

  • Worked with developmentally disabled people

  • With a partner, started a business writing firm, providing speeches for salesmen and executives for large corporations.


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Professional writer

  • During the early 1980s became a full-time freelance writer, often using non-Chinese-sounding pseudonyms in her work.

  • Very successful, but soon found herself living the life of a workaholic


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Relief in creative efforts

  • Studied jazz piano

    • hoping to channel the musical training forced on her by her parents in childhood into a more personal expression.

  • Also began to write fiction.


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Immediate success

  • First story "Endgame," won her admission to the Squaw Valley writer's workshop taught by novelist Oakley Hall.

  • 1985 story appeared in FM, literary magazine, and was reprinted in Seventeen.

  • A literary agent was impressed enough with Tan's second story "Waiting Between the Trees," to take her on as a client and encouraged her to write an entire volume


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Mother falls ill

  • Promised herself that if her mother recovered would take her to China to see the daughter who had been left behind almost forty years before.

  • Mrs. Tan regained her health

    • departed for China in 1987.

  • A “revelation” for Tan.

    • gave her a new perspective on her often-difficult relationship with her mother

    • inspired her to complete the book of stories she had promised her agent.


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Relationship with mother improves

Tan has said that the trip to China and learning about her mother’s past have helped to heal their relationship.


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Joy Luck Club

  • The book that was promised to the agent was The Joy Luck Club.

  • The rest is history.


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Major works

  • Joy Luck Club 1989, also made into a film

  • Kitchen God’s Wife 1991

  • The Hundred Secret Senses 1995

  • The Bonesetter’s Daughter 2001


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Children’s works

  • The Moon Lady 1992

  • Sagwa,The Chinese Siamese Cat 1994


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Magazine contributor

  • Essay "Mother Tongue" was published in The Threepenny Review and was selected for the 1991 edition of Best American Essays.

  • Stories have appeared in

    • The Atlantic,

    • Grand Street,

    • Lear's,

    • McCall's, and others


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Rock Bottom Remainders

  • Sings in the charity in a rock band, with other bestselling writers, including Stephen King, Carl Hiaasen and, until recently, Barbara Kingsolver.

“Geek Chic” The band’s original line-up. Fuzzy but funny.


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"Nobody on the bus asks, 'Where do you get your ideas?'"

  • Touring once a year as a leather-clad dominatrix belting out These Boots Are Made for Walking and Leader of the Pack satisfies a need,she says, to be a teenager again.

Tan with the band


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With other Asian-American writers

  • As a writer, she is often grouped with other Asian-American writers including

  • Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior)

  • Wakako Yamauchi (Songs My Mother Taught Me).


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Tan’s contributions

  • She is so popular, bringing the Asian-American voice to the mainstream society.

  • In the Ethnic Roots Search trend: Writing at a time when the people (e.g. second-or-third generation ethnics) in the States started to look for their roots.


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Lots of “two kinds” Work together

  • Of daughters: “Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!”

  • Jing-Mei and Waverly Jong, her “rival” at perfection

  • Chinese (obedience) vs. American (independence) and stereotypes of both;

  • Living daughters, dead daughters

  • “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented”


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Our Sympathy for both Jingmei and her Mother

  • At first, we are sympathetic with Jingmei, because we all experience parental expectations;

  • Then our sympathy shifts to the mother.

  • Towards the end, both win our sympathy.


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Mother’s American Dream

  • “My mother believe you can be anything you want to be.”

  • The American Dream – of being a self-made man getting rich, but not a “prodigy”;

  • Mother’s background: optimistic though she has experienced a lot of difficulties;


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Images for /Efforts on the daughter

  • Shirley Temple-- curly blonde hair with bangs and blue eyes; can sing and dance;

  • The hair episode: hair permed and becomes kinky black fuss like that of a black cut very short like Peter Pan, or called pixy cut;

  • Fairy tale and religious images (ballerina, Christ child, Cinderella) : the child’s unrealistic expectation matched with that of the mother’s.

  • The child’s motivation: wants the parents’ adoration and approval.


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A List of Prodigy Talents

  • Knowing capitals of the States; multiplying numbers in her head; etc.

  • Funny;

  • It’s not the way to find a child’s talent.


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The Mother’s Disappointment

  • Something in her starts to die;

  • She looks at the mirror, realizes that she will always be ordinary, and then she starts to cry.

  • Angry face  she senses the power on this face.

  • “I won’t be what I’m not.”  She won’t be what she is.


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Battle of the Wills

  • The mother seems to give up;

  • Ed Sullivan Show (Sunday Night; shows stars and talent shows):

    • the mother tries very hard to get the TV set to work;

    • a Chinese girl “proudly modest” on the show, which entrances the mother; a Chinese Shirley Temple;

    • “She’s pretty good; at least, she’s been trying hard.”

  •  the piano lesson starts.  “Why don’t you like me for what I am?”  “Who asks you to be the genius? .. .”

  • The mother may not know what “prodigy” means; she just wants Jingmei to be the best she can be.


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Mr. Chong

  • He was deaf, old and balding.

  • Mrs. Chong: “She had a peculiar smell, like a baby that had done something in its pants, and her fingers felt like a dead person's, like an old peach I once found in the back of the refrigerator: its skin just slid off the flesh when I picked it up.”

  • I just kept playing in rhythm. play lazy. (Maybe I never gave myself a fair chance--an adult point of view.)


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Immigrants’ Children

  • Wanting to fit in, they may feel ashamed of their parents who don’t speak the language well.


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Between the Two Mothers

  • Auntie Lindo: "All day she [Waverly] play chess. All day I have no time do nothing but dust off her winnings."

  • Although she complains about her own daughter, actually what she does is hinting that Jingmei is not a talent.


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Turning Point: Talent Show

  • Jingmei daydreams but she does not work.

  • “The part I liked to practice best was the fancy curtsy: right foot out, touch the rose on the carpet with a pointed foot, sweep to the side, bend left leg, look up, and smile.”

  • She is preoccupied by how pretty she is (foolish pride); but she is now worried about her performance (actually “the sour notes staying with me all the way”).


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Aftermath

  • Old Chong’s bravo;

  • Auntie Lindo’s mild criticism; the father’s humor;

  • Waverly’s rude remark: "You aren't a genius like me.“

  • The mother – looks hurt.


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Climax: Rebellion

  • The daughter: not your kind;

  • The mother: “"Only two kinds of daughters," she shouted in Chinese. "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!"”

  • "Then I wish I weren't your daughter, I wish you weren't my mother," I shouted.

  •  Here our sympathy is with the mother.


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Ending: after a sequence of failures

  • The mother seems to have given up;

  • The mother’s gesture of making up: Age 30, the mother offers to give her the piano. Jingmei starts to play the piano again.

  • ‘"Pleading Child" was shorter but slower; "Perfectly Contented" was longer but faster.’


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