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The Conection Between Amy Tan And The Characters Of “The Joy Luck Club” Essay, Research Paper

Amy Tan uses facts from her life and her own identity to create the character of Jing-Mei Woo for her first novel ?The Joy Luck Club?.

Amy Tan is a fictional writer, but unlike many other writers of that genre she writes about things that are very close to reality and her hart. In her firs published novel ?The Joy Luck Club? Tan infuses the fictional part of the book with what seems to be facts from her own life. ?The novel contains autobiographical elements.? FEMENIST STUDIES, (Vol.19, No.3, Fall 1998,pg. 98, critic: Marina Heung). Thus she is creating characters which strongly resemble her self and her own actions.

Jing-Mei Woo, who is also known as June throughout the book, is a character who resembles Tan the most. She is a first generation Chinese-American, daughter of Suyuan Woo who dies prier to the beginning of the story. Although there are six other characters whose stories we read about, we ultimately return to the one of Suyuan and June.

Amy Ruth Tan was born on February 19, 1952, in Oakland, California. Amy was the daughter of John and Daisy Tan, who had both emigrated from China in the late 1940s much like Junes parents. This we discover on pg. 6 when June talks about the beginning of T.J.L.C. ?My mother started the San Francisco version of The Joy Luck Club in 1949, two years before I was born. This was the year my mother and father left China with one stiff leather trunk filled only with fancy silk dresses.?

At the age of 14 Tan suffered the loss of her father and older brother, who both died of brain tumors within eight month of each other. It was then that Tan?s mother revealed that she has been married before, in China, to an abusive husband, and that Amy had three half- sisters there. Although June has no brothers in the book, and unlike the death of Amy?s father and older brother it is Junes mother that dies, almost all the other facts seem to be borrowed directly from Tans life.

June, like Tan, is told about her mothers? life in china and about her first marriage. On pp. 13-14 Junes mother says ? An army officer came to my house early one morning, and told me to go quickly to my husband in Chungking.? ? I packed my things and my two babies into this wheelbarrow and began pushing to Chungking four days before the Japanese marched into Kweilin.?? I pushed toward Chungking, until my wheel broke.? ?I tied scarves into slings and put a baby on each side of my shoulder. I carried a bag in each hand, one with clothes, the other with food. I carried until deep grooves grew in my hands. And I finally dropped one bag after the other when my hands began to bleed and became too slippery to hold on to anything.? To this June replied ?What do you mean by ?everything??? ?What happened to the babies?? It is on pg. 14 that Junes mother reveals to June that with that first husband she has had two other daughters, Junes? half-sisters, who are still in china. ? Your father is not my first husband. You are not those babies.?

In HER HERITAGE: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women by Robert McHenry (1995), We find that throughout Tans? earlier years the relationship between her and her mother was rather shaky. : After Tans? fathers? death, in 1966, her mother took Tan and her only other brother to Switzerland, where Amy attended high school and rebelled against her mother. She went completely against her mothers? wishes when she started hanging out with a German boyfriend. After moving back to California, Tan enrolled, to please her mother, in Linfield College. Soon after that, she struck out on her own again, however, this time with her Italian-American boyfriend Louis DeMattei, to San Jose City College in California. Tan also changed her major to English and linguistics, to which her mother said that she ?could see nothing in that as a future?.

Much like Tan, June and Suyuan weren?t always on best terms.

As a young girl June, like many kids her age, felt that her mother didn?t appreciate her for who she was, and through various useless tasks wanted her to become something more.

On pg. 153 June expresses her feelings about not wanting to play the piano: ?You want me to be someone that I?m not! I?ll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be!? to which Suyuan exclaims in Chinese ?Only two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!? This argument ends with June shouting ?Than I wish I wasn?t your daughter. I wish you weren?t my mother!?

We come across more tension on pr. 27, when June recalls a conversation she had with her mother about not wanting to go back to school. ?Somewhere back, maybe just six months ago, we were again having this argument about my being a failure, a ?college drop-off.?

Although all this information seemed very sufficient, I didn?t find it convincing enough to make the connection between Tan and June until I came across another similarity between the two in HER HERITAGE: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women: In 1987, at the age of 35, Tan and her mother go on a trip to China, Tans first trip that is. And as you might have already guessed, at the end of the book, June, also at the age of 35, accompanied by her father, takes her first trip to China to find her sisters and rediscover her self (pg37).

As we are presented with these facts we cannot ignore the parallelism between the lives of Amy Tan and the fictional character of June. Although all the characters of The Joy Luck Club have something in common with their creator, the similarities of June and Tan are impossible to overlook.




Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright 1989 by Amy Tan


Vol.19, No.3

Copyright Fall 1998


A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women

Copyright 1995 by Robert McHenry

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