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The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life
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The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  5,797 ratings  ·  560 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 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Nov 01, 2008 Eileen rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Jul 26, 2013 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
Stephen Gallup
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
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
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 insightf ...more
Eva Shang
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
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
May 27, 2012 Nicole rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 foun ...more
"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
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.
Sarah Echo
I am reviewing this book after reading it for the second time, so it should already be obvious that I enjoyed it. Amy Tan, one of my favorite American writers, finally gives her fans an inside look at what inspires and drives her story-telling. All writers are influenced by their own experiences, but none have a wealth of tragedies and settings in their lives to pull from. Tan has lived through the deaths of her older brother and her father, within a year of each other, and many years later, of ...more
I really loved the essays in this book and her thoughts on writing. I am also now irrationally terrified of Lyme disease.
Dec 31, 2013 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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.
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan is a wonderful collection of short stories, and essays that gives the reader great insight into her life. I have read several of Amy Tan's other novels, and I found by reading her personal memoir I was able to see her other novel's in a different light. The collection of stories presented in The Opposite of Fate were personal, and vulnerable. She talks a lot about her mother, and their relationship, and how that has influenced many of her books.
I loved the her wi
Kathleen Cremonesi
I would have preferred to give this book a 3.5 rating, but it didn't seem fair to give it four when it didn't resonate with me as much as the other 4-star books I've read. (Some of which would have been 4.5s if half stars were possible here.)

Back to the task at hand:

I loved Joy Luck Club – both the book and the movie – so I gladly picked this memoir up when I came across it. There’s a lot to love here – Ms. Tan’s stories of her mother were often moving and hilarious, but what I enjoyed most was
Sebastian Partogi
I really LOVE this book - which talks about the so-called Opposite of fate, namely choice, forgiveness and freedom of expression. The stories help me to reconcile with my own troubled past and it is interesting that I read them during Idul Fitri! As an Indonesian-Chinese, I can easily relate with Tan's essays. On the emotional level, my favorite essay is 'Last Week', which was strong enough to make me cry for 5 minutes, and then for another 15 minutes as it reminded me of my late grandmother (wh ...more
Karna Converse
Writing about mothers, grandmothers, women, and family is a common theme in Amy Tan’s work. Though she’s probably best known as the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and The Valley of Amazement, the book I identified with most is her nonfiction musings, The Opposite of Fate. Part short reflections and part previously published essays, Tan takes readers on a journey that begins with her childhood and ends with her fight against Lyme disease in 2001. Tan’s musings cover a variet ...more
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
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.
This book is an eye opener for me. One does not have to be good in grammar or know lots of difficult words in order to write. As long as one writes from the heart and as long as one has good stories to tell, writing a book is not impossible.

Amy Tan has a degree in literature but she also had a hard time finding her voice. Her books were actually not written as a novel but as short stories woven together by a central theme.

I found this book in a flea market and boy was I happy to find it. I love
Jan 07, 2014 LauraN rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: bio
Los libros de Amy Tan me suelen gustar bastante. Supongo que tiene que ver con su forma de escribir las cosas, por ese toque íntimo, por las relaciones entre diferentes generaciones en una familia, por tocar el tema de la China antigua y la moderna, por el contraste entre culturas y por el día a día, y los años, que pasan por sus personajes. Además hay reflexiones interesantes entre sus páginas que te hacen meditar sobre tu punto de vista y tus opiniones. Siempre me ha dejado un buen sabor de bo ...more
Christine Keleny
I was recently given this book by a new friend of mine - a bookie such as myself - so I just had to read it. I had also seen the movie "Joy Luck Club" and really enjoyed it so I thought I would enjoy learning about the author. Mostly it made me want to pick up a few of her books to read. I've got them on my list!

Genre: Memoir (398 pages)

Blurb: (from Goodreads): Amy Tan has touched millions of readers with haunting and sympathetic novels of cultural complexity and profound empathy. With the same
Good book – she writes a self-deprecating memoir. Her family history was very interesting.
Hilary Krzywkowski
This book was gifted to me by my "big" sister, Lauren. She knew how much I *loved* Amy Tan. Interestingly, though this book was very well written and everything I look for in an Amy Tan novel, it was the last of hers I found myself wanting to read. A bit of disillusionment occurred within this novel for me, and for that I give this the five-star vote. When an author reaches the point of being so honest and open and eloquent that you can see that they have smashed the pedestal you placed them upo ...more
Trisha Owens
Interesting musings from the author, Amy Tan. Mixed with hilarious moments and tragic ones, she is able to transcend whatever life throws at her and forge her own path. You will find plentiful descriptions of what it is like to be an author and the process one goes through to do it. She was born into a family (in America) who believed in Fate, yet she creates her own destiny. Love her other literary accomplishments, The Kitchen God's Wife, and The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter's Daughter. This N ...more
Funny and insightful and full of charm. Loved it.
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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...
The Joy Luck Club The Bonesetter's Daughter The Kitchen God's Wife The Hundred Secret Senses The Valley of Amazement

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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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