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← Why should you read “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan? - Sheila Marie Orfano

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Showing Revision 3 created 01/02/2020 by lauren mcalpine .

  1. In her Auntie An-mei’s home,
  2. Jing-Mei reluctantly takes her seat
  3. at the eastern corner
    of the mahjong table.
  4. At the north, south, and west
    corners are her aunties,
  5. long-time members of the Joy Luck Club.
  6. This group of immigrant families
    comes together weekly to trade gossip,
  7. feast on wonton and sweet chaswei,
    and play mahjong.
  8. However, the club’s founder, Jing-Mei’s
    mother Suyuan, has recently passed away.
  9. At first, Jing-Mei struggles
    to fill her place at the table.
  10. But when her aunties reveal a deeply
    buried secret about Suyuan’s life,
  11. Jing-Mei realizes she still has a lot
    to learn about her mother, and herself.
  12. In Amy Tan’s 1989 debut novel,
    "The Joy Luck Club,"

  13. this gathering at the mahjong table
    is the point of departure
  14. for a series of interconnected vignettes.
  15. The book itself is loosely structured
    to imitate the format of the Chinese game.
  16. Just as mahjong is played over four
    rounds with at least four hands each,
  17. the book is divided into four parts,
    each with four chapters.
  18. Alternately set in China
    or San Francisco,
  19. each chapter narrates a single
    story from one of the four matriarchs
  20. of the Joy Luck Club
    or their American-born daughters.
  21. These stories take the reader through
    war zones

  22. and villages of rural China,
    and into modern marriages
  23. and tense gatherings
    around the dinner table.
  24. They touch upon themes of survival
    and loss, love and the lack of it,
  25. ambitions and their unsatisfied reality.
  26. In one, Auntie Lin plots an escape
    from the hostile family
  27. of her promised husband,
  28. ultimately leading
    to her arrival in America.
  29. In another, the Hsu family’s all-American
    day at the beach turns dire
  30. when Rose is overwhelmed by the
    responsibility her mother assigns to her.
  31. The resulting tragedy traumatizes
    the family for years to come.
  32. These tales illustrate the common
    divides that can form

  33. between generations and cultures,
    especially in immigrant families.
  34. The mothers have all experienced great
    hardships during their lives in China,
  35. and they’ve worked tirelessly
    to give their children
  36. better opportunities in America.
  37. But their daughters feel weighed down
    by their parent’s unfulfilled hopes
  38. and high expectations.
  39. Jing-Mei feels this pressure as she plays
    mahjong with her mother’s friends.
  40. She worries, “In me, they see
    their own daughters, just as ignorant,
  41. just as unmindful of all the truths
    and hopes they have brought to America.”
  42. Time and again,
  43. the mothers strive to remind their
    daughters of their history and heritage.
  44. Meanwhile, their daughters
    struggle to reconcile
  45. their mothers’ perception of them
    with who they really are.
  46. "Does my daughter know me?"
    some of the stories ask.
  47. "Why doesn’t my mother understand?"
    others respond.
  48. In her interrogation of these questions,

  49. Tan speaks to anxieties
    that plague many immigrants,
  50. who often feel both alienated
    from their homeland
  51. and disconnected
    from their adopted country.
  52. But by weaving the tales of these
    four mothers and daughters together,
  53. Tan makes it clear that Jing-Mei
  54. and her peers find strength to tackle
    their present-day problems
  55. through the values their mothers
    passed on to them.
  56. When "The Joy Luck Club"
    was first published,

  57. Tan expected minimal success.
  58. But against her predictions,
    the book was a massive critical
  59. and commercial achievement.
  60. Today, these characters
    still captivate readers worldwide.
  61. Not only for the way they speak
    to Chinese American
  62. and immigrant experiences,
  63. but also for uncovering a deeper truth:
  64. the need to be seen and understood
    by the ones you love.