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

  • 0:07 - 0:09
    In her Auntie An-mei’s home,
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    Jing-Mei reluctantly takes her seat
  • 0:11 - 0:13
    at the eastern corner
    of the mahjong table.
  • 0:13 - 0:16
    At the north, south, and west
    corners are her aunties,
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    long-time members of the Joy Luck Club.
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    This group of immigrant families
    comes together weekly to trade gossip,
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    feast on wonton and sweet chaswei,
    and play mahjong.
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    However, the club’s founder, Jing-Mei’s
    mother Suyuan, has recently passed away.
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    At first, Jing-Mei struggles
    to fill her place at the table.
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    But when her aunties reveal a deeply
    buried secret about Suyuan’s life,
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    Jing-Mei realizes she still has a lot
    to learn about her mother, and herself.
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    In Amy Tan’s 1989 debut novel,
    "The Joy Luck Club,"
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    this gathering at the mahjong table
    is the point of departure
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    for a series of interconnected vignettes.
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    The book itself is loosely structured
    to imitate the format of the Chinese game.
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    Just as mahjong is played over four
    rounds with at least four hands each,
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    the book is divided into four parts,
    each with four chapters.
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    Alternately set in China
    or San Francisco,
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    each chapter narrates a single
    story from one of the four matriarchs
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    of the Joy Luck Club
    or their American-born daughters.
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    These stories take the reader through
    war zones
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    and villages of rural China,
    and into modern marriages
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    and tense gatherings
    around the dinner table.
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    They touch upon themes of survival
    and loss, love and the lack of it,
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    ambitions and their unsatisfied reality.
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    In one, Auntie Lin plots an escape
    from the hostile family
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    of her promised husband,
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    ultimately leading
    to her arrival in America.
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    In another, the Hsu family’s all-American
    day at the beach turns dire
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    when Rose is overwhelmed by the
    responsibility her mother assigns to her.
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    The resulting tragedy traumatizes
    the family for years to come.
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    These tales illustrate the common
    divides that can form
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    between generations and cultures,
    especially in immigrant families.
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    The mothers have all experienced great
    hardships during their lives in China,
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    and they’ve worked tirelessly
    to give their children
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    better opportunities in America.
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    But their daughters feel weighed down
    by their parent’s unfulfilled hopes
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    and high expectations.
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    Jing-Mei feels this pressure as she plays
    mahjong with her mother’s friends.
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    She worries, “In me, they see
    their own daughters, just as ignorant,
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    just as unmindful of all the truths
    and hopes they have brought to America.”
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    Time and again,
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    the mothers strive to remind their
    daughters of their history and heritage.
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    Meanwhile, their daughters
    struggle to reconcile
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    their mothers’ perception of them
    with who they really are.
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    "Does my daughter know me?"
    some of the stories ask.
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    "Why doesn’t my mother understand?"
    others respond.
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    In her interrogation of these questions,
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    Tan speaks to anxieties
    that plague many immigrants,
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    who often feel both alienated
    from their homeland
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    and disconnected
    from their adopted country.
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    But by weaving the tales of these
    four mothers and daughters together,
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    Tan makes it clear that Jing-Mei
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    and her peers find strength to tackle
    their present-day problems
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    through the values their mothers
    passed on to them.
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    When "The Joy Luck Club"
    was first published,
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    Tan expected minimal success.
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    But against her predictions,
    the book was a massive critical
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    and commercial achievement.
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    Today, these characters
    still captivate readers worldwide.
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    Not only for the way they speak
    to Chinese American
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    and immigrant experiences,
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    but also for uncovering a deeper truth:
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    the need to be seen and understood
    by the ones you love.
Title:
Why should you read “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan? - Sheila Marie Orfano
Speaker:
Sheila Marie Orfano
Description:

View full lesson: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-should-you-read-the-joy-luck-club-by-amy-tan-sheila-marie-orfano

In her Auntie An-mei’s home, Jing-Mei reluctantly takes her seat at the eastern corner of the mahjong table. At the north, south and west corners are her aunties, long-time members of the Joy Luck Club. This gathering is the point of departure for a series of interconnected vignettes in Amy Tan’s debut novel. Sheila Marie Orfano explores why the novel still captivates readers worldwide.

Lesson by Sheila Marie Orfano, directed by Kayu Leung & Alo Trusz.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TED-Ed
Duration:
03:33

English subtitles

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