The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Why read The Joy Luck Club? Because sometimes one needs to get in touch with his inner Chinese feminine side.
Amy Tan's most famous book offered ample opportunity in that regard. The JLC is all about the relationships between Chinese moms and their daughters.
Honestly, I picked this up as part of my studies into Chinese culture. My brother has been teaching English over there for a few years now and I plan on visiting one day. As per usual, I like to read up on a place before the trip. Some people say that spoils the surprise, but I feel like I get more out of the visit that way. There always seems to be plenty of surprises when you travel to the other side of the world, regardless of the prep work.
Was this useful for Chinese studies? Not 100%. The stories herein, which are no doubt heavily indebted to Tan's personal experiences, are not only fictional, but they're also about the Chinese-American experience. A good deal of the book takes place in the U.S. There are many old world/home land stories and Tan does an excellent job including and describing Chinese customs and traditions. It's just that most of the time they are tainted or at least touched by the hand of the West.
The relationships themselves and how they play out is, for the most part, satisfying. Emotions sometimes run high and occasionally over. There are laughs to be had in everyday misunderstandings. The characters may be foreign to me, but were nevertheless utterly relatable. After all, most everyone has a parent-child relationship to relate to. My own relationship with my mother was, for better or worse, close. I may not be a woman or Chinese, but that hardly matters, as nothing was lost in Tan's translation of the mother-child bond.
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