The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

The Joy Luck Club

In 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. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her se

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    Brina

    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

    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.
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