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The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  6,297 Ratings  ·  610 Reviews
Delve into the stories from Amy Tan's life that inspired bestselling novels like The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement

Amy Tan has touched millions of readers with haunting and sympathetic novels of cultural complexity and profound empathy. With the same spirit and humor that characterize her acclaimed novels, she now shares her insight into her own life and how she
Paperback, 398 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 06, 2009 Jeana rated it really liked it
Reading this book is like sitting down to lunch with someone you hardly know and making a new friend. I happen to love Amy Tan's novels. I also like to read about writers and how they got their breaks. This memior/musings/essay book held a lot of the magic that is found in Joy Luck Club/Kitchen God's Wife with a lot of reality and the daily suffering of a writer.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Tan's mother (but of course it's the crazy/hard-lifed mothers that make Joy Luck and Kitchen God's
Jul 26, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
Recommends it for: chinese-american, writers
Recommended to Lisa by: me
Shelves: memoirs
I really enjoyed this book. It was so different from the books I normally read. Amy Tan has led an interesting life! It was a little slow 3/4 of the way through, but I enjoyed reading about her life and relationship with her mother. Seeking the "American Dream" and the chinese culture of honoring and obeying your parents are so polar opposite. It's understandable that first generation kids grow up very confused.
Clark Carlton
Aug 14, 2016 Clark Carlton rated it really liked it
Amy Tan is one of the finest American writers we have. I am making it a point not to call her one of our finest women writers or Chinese-American writers or a writer of color, an issue which is explored in this memoir. This book may be a special taste -- you might need to be someone who loves her work and is interested in writing to fully appreciate it. Amy tells her stories with certainty and elegance and never overstates anything. I listened to this book which was all the better for having the ...more
Nov 01, 2008 Eileen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers
I highly recommend this book to all writers as well as those interested in the “evolution” of a writer. I truly enjoyed Amy Tan’s honest and insightful account of her “journey,” told through a series of essays and autobiographical sketches.

I especially appreciated Tan’s essay, “Required Reading and Other Dangerous Subjects,” in which she rejects the widespread belief that writers come in colors – and those colors do not mix and match. It is a biting critique of those who would dictate who is qu
Stephen Gallup
Jul 09, 2013 Stephen Gallup rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite the subtitle, I bought this book expecting it to be more of a memoir than it actually is. I think Amy Tan's main purpose in writing it was to set the record straight on a variety of topics, beginning with an inaccurate summary of her life that turned up in an edition of CliffsNotes. She does so in essays that directly address the points that need to be made, and also tosses in other writings that range from a college commencement address to an item she wrote for the newspaper when eight ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Sundurra rated it it was ok
I just read it because my mother recommended it to me. This book is clearly written for the author's fans. Since I had no idea who she was, I found it quite self exalting.
The author describes her life and the events that inspired her novels, which were inspired by her mother and grandmother's struggles in China.
A recurring topic throughout the book is the minority issues of being a chinese american and how she has been influenced by both cultures. Another important aspect of the book has to do w
Apr 27, 2016 Caitlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
I write stories because I have questions about life, not answers. I believe life is mysterious and not dissectable . . . . I can't paraphrase or give succinct morals about love and hope, pain and loss. I have to use a mental longhand, ponder and work it out in the form of a story that is revised again and again, twenty times, a hundred times, until it feels true. I write for very much the same reasons that I read: to startle my mind, to church my heart, to tingle my spine, to knock the blinders ...more
Mar 25, 2010 Kandice rated it really liked it
I have read all of Tan's books, usually within days of release, and this was a great way to "get to know her better". You can guess at a lot of her personal life just by reading her books, with the exception of Saving Fish from Drowning: A Novel, but it was still interesting to see just what was real and what was fiction.

There was a lot of repetetiveness, but that was to be expected. It says right on the description that these are mostly personal essays and speeches written over a period of year
Joshua Gross
This book started out well, but after awhile it became a little tiresome. This seems to be an almost random collection of essays written by Amy Tan for various reasons that get less and less interesting as I progressed. Some of them were really interesting, and I learned all kinds of things about Ms. Tan, but some of them were kind of similar to ones I'd already read, or were just long and not that interesting. Some of them were very very funny, though, and more than one were especially ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Marnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have read a few of Amy Tan books, and I enjoy them immensely. I found this biography book by her, funny at times and enjoyable to read. Interesting to learn a bit how she comes up with the novels that she writes. And I certainly hope that she continues.
Mar 07, 2009 Sheila rated it really liked it
Good book – she writes a self-deprecating memoir. Her family history was very interesting.
Jan 09, 2011 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
What had started as subterfuge on my part grew into an epiphany. I began to so see how much I actually knew about my mother and myself. She was losing her mind, yes, but I was losing defenses built up and fortified from childhood. . . . It had been so simple to make my mother happy. All I had to do was say I appreciated her as my mother.
- Amy Tan, from The Opposite of Fate

Several years ago, when I read Joy Luck Club, I began to understand my own mother a little bit better and discovered how lon
Eva Shang
Feb 21, 2011 Eva Shang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading her memoir and finding out that so much in her books was based on her life, I empathized with Tan even more. I especially loved the stories about her mother's dementia, as it shows the true connection between mother and daughter. The answer to "When will you be home?" is not a specific time and date, but "We're almost home, because we love you so so much and can't wait to see you."
Parts of the memoir were funny, parts were truly sad, but I also empathized with Tan's childhood (alt
May 27, 2012 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Tan fans, folks with a burgeoning interest in writing
Recommended to Nicole by: The Dusty Bookshelf, Lawrence, Kansas
This is less a memoir and more an exploration by Tan of her own (and others') writing. She discusses her reasons for writing and her inspirations. I now have three new books (Lolita, Jane Eyre, and Love Medicine) on the stack thanks to Tan's chapter, "My Love Affair with Vladimir Nabokov," on her favorite reads. Tan also examines one of the main themes that put her on the literary map: The relationship between mother and daughter. To some, this might get tiresome or even trivial. However, I ...more
Apr 19, 2007 Katey rated it really liked it
"My mother believed in God's will for many years. It was if she had turned on a celestial faucet and goodness kept pouring out. She said it was faith that kept all these good things coming our way, only I thought she said 'fate,' because she couldn't pronounce that 'th' sound in 'faith.'
And later, I discovered that maybe it was fate all along, that faith was just an illusion that somehow you're in control. I found out the most *I* could have was hope, and with that I was not denying any possibil
Mar 03, 2016 Imas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: karya-perempuan
Buku ini lebih pas dibaca oleh orang yang sudah pernah membaca karya-karya Amy Tan. Aku sudah membaca 3 buku Amy, and love all of it. Karena buku ini adalah karya nonfiksi pertama Amy tentang perjalanan hidup yang membentuk dirinya sebagai manusia dan sebagai penulis. Bagaimana ia melepaskan diri dari masa lalu dan menggapai takdirnya sendiri. Buku yang ditulis Amy terinspirasi dari kehidupan Amy dan keluarganya, terutama ibu dan neneknya.

Membaca buku ini, seolah-olah mendengarkan Amy bercerita
Aug 13, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cheryl by: Friends of the Library
Thoroughly enjoyed this interesting collection collection of memories from Amy Tan's life. I enjoyed what Ms. Tan shared and she is someone I probably would enjoy meeting. Because of the book, I'd go out of my way to hear her speak.

Rating and writing a review of a living person's memoir is difficult because it is too easy to make the leap into rating a life and that's certainly not the original purpose of Goodreads.
Nov 15, 2013 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: rgc
I read the Joy Luck Club many years ago and absolutely loved it, but have never read anything else from her. I wasn't expecting too much out of a non-fiction book, but for a autobiography/essay/speech/random writings I felt that this book read like a novel.
I loved seeing how her real life was intertwined into her novels, making memories into literature.
Oct 25, 2015 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Read by Amy Tan herself, this cd has been thoroughly entertaining. Listening to Ms. Tan read the voice of her mother was worse the price of admission in itself. Many different themes in her life are discussed, including mother/daughter relationships, the writing life, crime, fans, health, and so on.
Sep 29, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it
Fantastic! I think I may have found a new favourite author to influence my reading choices over the next few months. Refreshingly honest and beautifully written. I feel like I've been listening to the reminiscing of an old friend.
Kathy Chung
reviewed at :Mama Kucing Meow :The Opposite of Fate : A Book of Musing By Amy Tan

an interesting book. It's nice to know where she got her inspirations
Jun 18, 2016 Kaye rated it it was amazing
One of the most stunning memoirs I've ever read. The pieces aren't written as though intended to be a cohesive book, but true to her own form, Amy Tan weaves each selection to let you see the life behind her stories.
Apr 04, 2015 Rebekah rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I really loved the essays in this book and her thoughts on writing. I am also now irrationally terrified of Lyme disease.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I actually found this easier to read and more enjoyable than her novels, which are good but sometimes drag a bit.
Apr 02, 2013 Claire rated it it was amazing
Funny and insightful and full of charm. Loved it.
Christina DiMinni
I would use Amy Tan's famous essay, "Fish Cheeks," from this book. I would have students read this essay prior to reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because of the similar themes they have of the importance of family, where you come from, and cultural differences. Since "Fish Cheeks" is quite short, yet still very invoking, it would be a great introduction of Sherman Alexie's novel since it will get students thinking about these big, and often times difficult, ideas of how ...more
Oct 28, 2016 Lata rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-author, poc-actor
3.5 stars
Interesting. There was some repetitive material in the essays, but I liked learning how Amy Tan became an author and how her experiences fed into her books.
Joy H.
Added 3/4/13
The Opposite of Fate A Book of Musings by Amy Tan
In going through my old handwritten notes, I realize that I read this book in 2004.

I must have enjoyed it because I have 10 pages of handwritten quotes from the book.

I don't know if this book is different from Amy Tan's book: The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life but I am sure I read the book called The Opposite of Fate A Book of Musings.

The author talks a lot about how she learned to trust her own ideas and beliefs instead
Oct 17, 2016 Conchetta rated it really liked it
I listened to this as read by the author. Very interesting and entertaining.
Donna Davis
Though bookstores and book clubs bill this as a memoir, it is really a collection of essays and speeches originally published for other purposes. Though I would love to read an actual autobiography written by Tan, this is an excellent anthology, and I cannot deny it the five stars it deserves.

Tan writes about a wide range of experiences, from contracting Lyme disease to writing the screen play of The Joy Luck Club for Disney. It was nice to see somebody say something positive about Disney for on
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What is the meaning of the title: _The Opposite of Fate_? 1 5 Mar 04, 2013 07:37AM  
The Rory Gilmore ...: The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan 8 75 Sep 30, 2012 05:18AM  
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Amy Tan (Chinese: 譚恩美; pinyin: Tán Ēnměi; born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hun
More about Amy Tan...

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“Thanks to my mother, I was raised to have a morbid imagination. When I was a child, she often talked about death as warning, as an unavoidable matter of fact. Little Debbie's mom down the block might say, 'Honey, look both ways before crossing the street.' My mother's version: 'You don't look, you get smash flat like sand dab.' (Sand dabs were the cheap fish we bought live in the market, distinguished in my mind by their two eyes affixed on one side of their woebegone cartoon faces.)

The warnings grew worse, depending on the danger at hand. Sex education, for example, consisted of the following advice: 'Don't ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can't stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill youself.”
“I wanted to capture what language ability tests could never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts.” 5 likes
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