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The Joy Luck Club

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Alternate cover editions of ISBN 9780143038092 can be found here.

Four mothers, four daughters, four families, whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's telling the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives – until their own inner crises reveal how much they've unknowingly inherited of their mothers' pasts.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

352 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1989

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About the author

Amy Tan

119 books9,818 followers
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 Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter's Daughter, and a collection of non-fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings. Her most recent book, Saving Fish From Drowning, explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition into the jungles of Burma. In addition, Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS. She has also appeared on PBS in a short spot on encouraging children to write.

Currently, she is the literary editor for West, Los Angeles Times' Sunday magazine.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,547 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
March 5, 2017
During high school, when I did not have the life experience to fully appreciate her work, I read each of Amy Tan's books as they came out. Now, years later, with many other books and various experiences under my belt, I reread The Joy Luck Club, Tan's first book, as part of my March Women's History Month lineup.

Following her mother's death, June Mei Woo has replaced her mother Suyuan at her monthly mah jong game. Suyuan started this game and Joy Luck Club when she first immigrated to the United States as a way to maintain her Chinese culture in a new country. The other families who joined her-- the Hsus, Jongs, and St Claires-- became like family as together they celebrated festivals, children's birthdays, and indoctrinated the next generation in Chinese culture. Yet, June Mei and her friends from the group, Waverly, Rose, and Lena, for the most part were interested in achieving the American dream, often times at the expense of their mothers who worked hard to preserve their Chinese cultural existence.

It is also only at these meetings that these four ladies could pour out the sorrows of the life they left behind in China, including extended families who stayed in villages while these fortunate ones moved to Shanghai and Hong Kong and then to the United States. Away from these intimate gatherings, even the daughters of these women did not know much about their mothers' lives in China. It is at the opening of the book that June Mei finds out that her mother had twin daughters in China who she abandoned as babies and after all these years, they have been found. Much to June Mei's chagrin, the older women urge her to travel to China to meet her sisters and teach them about their mother's heritage.

While much about immigration experience, The Joy Luck Club is also about both the younger and older generation's path to self discovery. Tan uses a vignette format to alternate stories between the younger and older women, with June Mei's voice serving as a voice between the two. I enjoyed learning about life in pre-revolutionary, rural China and the hardships that drove the Chinese to immigrate in the first place. Once in the United States, however, the protagonists strove to preserve the same language, food, culture of the China that they were quick to leave behind. The fact that none of their daughters chose to marry Chinese men attests to the generation gap between first and second generation immigrants of any ethnic group. As in many cases, when the children move toward middle age, then they become interested in their parents' heritage, as is the case here. Unfortunately, it does change the gap that had been created when the children shunned their culture in exchange for life as normal Americans.

When published, The Joy Luck Club was an innovative look at Chinese immigrants and how being Chinese changes with each generation. Tan has encouraged an entire generation of Chinese American writers who we can enjoy today, and now there are a plethora of cultural groups writing about their immigrant experience. I recently read as part of a buddy read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and many of the participants noted that Lahiri's writing is much like Tan's a generation later. Talking about how Indian culture changes from one generation to the next, Lahiri does seem much as Tan, the torch bearer for this style of writing. That the Joy Luck Club has been an on the same page selection in multiple cities as well as studied in schools speaks to its enduring qualities. I look forward to revisiting Tan's other books again, and rate The Joy Luck Club 4 bright stars.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
83 reviews21 followers
April 19, 2007
After I read The Joy Luck Club (summer required reading before sophomore English in high school), I started pestering my mom about her abandoned children in mainland China. I also declared that I would name my two kids after the aforementioned abandoned children: Spring Flower and Spring Rain.

My mom laughed in my face about the latter, saying no self-respecting Chinese would give their kids such pedestrian names, and would be mock-pissed about the former.

The truth is that The Joy Luck Club got some things right and got a lot of other things dramatic. The stuff that rang the most true with me was the angsty rivalry between Waverly and June; particularly June's meltdown at the piano recital (a consistent paranoia of mine throughout childhood) and Waverly's accusations toward her mother (a fantasy of mine growing up).

I now realize that some of my issues with my mom were probably planted by reading The Joy Luck Club; others were valid insofar as they existed within the collective repressed thoughts of first-generation Asian-Americans forced to compete against the highest standards: their parents'.

I think The Joy Luck Club is important because it was prominent in the mainstream and it finally allowed ABCs (American-born Chinese) to recognize themselves in a major work of literature. The problem is that the book came out almost twenty years ago and there have been nearly no major additions to the genre. I hate for people to think JLC is definitive about our culture and experience, as influential as it is.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews37 followers
December 5, 2021
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club is a 1989 novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco who start a club known as The Joy Luck Club, playing the Chinese game of Mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods.

The book is structured somewhat like a Mahjong game, with four parts divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters.

The three mothers and four daughters (one mother, Suyuan Woo, dies before the novel opens). Stories about their lives in the form of vignettes. Each part is preceded by a parable relating to the game.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی و یکم ماه آگوست سال1996میلادی

عنوان: محفل شادمانی؛ نویسنده: امی تان (تن)؛ مترجم: مریم بیات؛ تهران، نشر البرز، سال1373؛ در شانزده و383ص؛ موضوع: داستان چینی های آمریکا مادران و دختران از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان اصلی کتاب «باشگاه جوی لاک»، است، در «ایران» با عنوان «محفل شادمانی»، با ترجمه ی سرکار خانم «مریم بیات»، در نشر البرز، لباس نشر بر تن پوشیده است؛ این داستان، توسط خانم «امی تان (تن)»، در سال1989میلادی، نگاشته شده است؛ داستان چهار خانواده ی مهاجر «چینی تبار آمریکایی»، در شهر «سانفرانسیکو» است، که یک باشگاه، به نام «شادی خوش شانسی (جوی لاک)»، بنیان مینهند؛ از این داستان، فیلمی نیز به کارگردانی «وین وانگ»، کارگردان «هنگ کنگی تبار مقیم آمریکا»، ساخته شده است؛ داستان طی یک سری «فلش بک»، از چهار زن جوان «چینی» میگوید، که در «آمریکا» به دنیا آمده اند، اما مادران آنها، در «چین» زاده شده اند، آنها به جستجوی بگذشته ی خویش، دلمشغول هستند؛ همین جستجوها، به آنها یاری میکند، تا مشکل رابطه ی مادر و دختری خود را، بهتر دریابند....؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 13/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jenna.
Author 10 books332 followers
December 29, 2021
It's not fashionable to profess a liking for The Joy Luck Club. In both academic and literary circles, Tan has been maligned for her seeming misandry and racial self-loathing, raked across the coals for her largely negative portrayal of Asian/Asian American men and for marrying off all her Asian American female characters to white men. She's been dismissed for writing "chick lit," lightweight family melodrama laced with orientalist cliches. She's even been accused of being politically reactionary. As Asian American literature scholar Erin Ninh states in her academic text Ingratitude, The Joy Luck Club conveniently ignores "America's systemic racial and economic discrimination... [It] must be understood as part and parcel of [an] assimilationist obfuscation of power." And yet. I have a soft spot for this book. Because, damn it, Amy Tan was a pioneer, a groundbreaker. When I first read this novel at age 14 or so, it really spoke to me. It thrilled me that someone was finally writing down some difficult truths of Asian American mother-daughter relationships, exposing the hidden realities of my private life to the public eye. Waverly Jong's tragic story of chess-playing and mother-daughter psychological warfare: how could anyone not find it unforgettable? The scene where Lindo Jong poisons her daughter's mind against the mink coat she previously loved: doesn't it perfectly sum up the complicated love/hate dynamic between two damaged women, intelligent and yet conditioned by society to waste their intelligence scheming against each other?
Profile Image for Debbie W..
763 reviews570 followers
May 24, 2023
Why I chose to read this book:
1. I recall hearing about this book years ago, so when I found a hardcopy at a thrift shop, I just had to add it to my WTR list; and,
2. May 2023 is my "People of the Far East Month" (country featured: China)

1. author Amy Tan's writing style is so thoughtful and relatable! The relationships between the mothers and their respectiive daughters felt hopeful, but at times, disheartening. Their connections had me chuckling, yet sometimes left me saddened. The mothers' pride and disappointments with their daughters meshed well with the daughters' respect and frustrations with their mothers;
2. we are privy to hear the mothers recall their trials and tribulations of their past lives while living in China as children, wives, and mothers, while their daughters reflect on their own current lives as children, wives, and mothers while living in America;
3. I learned a lot about various Chinese customs and beliefs; and,
4. the chapter titles and list of characters helped me keep the stories straight.

Overall Thoughts:
A story of Old World thinking of "Chinese character" while intent on living the "American circumstance".
A lovely story of the strong bonds between mothers and daughters! A new book to add to my "Favorites" bookshelf!

Happy Mother's Day!
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
November 22, 2014
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.

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,521 reviews9,008 followers
April 16, 2012
Those of you who read my blog are most likely aware that my relationship with my mother is not all bouncing bunnies and beautiful butterflies. As an American-born son raised with traditionally Asian standards, my childhood has been filled with conflicts resulting in screaming matches and bountiful tears. So reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan was quite the vicarious experience - though I am not Chinese nor a daughter, I could connect to several of the themes that ran throughout the novel.

The interweaving vignettes that comprise the book are too intricate to explain completely without writing a long review, but the book is basically about four Chinese women who immigrate to San Francisco. They have all endured great hardship but are each hopeful about their futures as well as their daughters' futures. Through sixteen short stories we are able to view major events in their lives that have shaped their mindsets, their worlds, and their relationships with one another.

Amy Tan's writing is devastatingly simple. Her diction is not all that convoluted, but the drama and tension she manages to create through her choice of words is astounding. After reading certain sentences and phrases I stopped and thought dang. That was deep. Indeed, Tan's deceptively simple writing style is realistic and piercing and poignant all at once.

The theme that struck me the most while reading the novel was the inter-generational loss that afflicted the characters. The misunderstandings that occurred and all the things that were lost in translation were truly tragic - and still are tragic in contemporary society. However, after finishing the book and tearing up at the bittersweet endings, I've come to the conclusion that what really matters is the love one feels for their child and the longing to leave one's legacy with their son or daughter in order for them to succeed.

While I had difficulty discerning the characters from one another while reading the book - I had to constantly reference the front section to keep myself from utter confusion - overall I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a bittersweet story about Chinese culture or the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters.

*cross-posted from my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews760 followers
September 1, 2022
I really enjoyed The Valley of Amazement and I was looking forward to reading this. I really like Amy Tan's writing style and I felt really invested in all the character's stories. I was honestly disappointed when the book ended. I do wish we could have spent more time with the characters. It felt like we spent more time on some of the mother's back stories versus the others. I also feel like I related to the mothers more than the daughters, which seems contrary to a lot of people's experience with the book. It might just be because lately I've been considering what it means to be known by another person etc etc and so that just stood out to me while reading. Anyways definitely enjoyed this one.
Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
September 21, 2021
The Joy Luck Club was an interesting book and certainly better than I first expected. It tells the story of four mothers and their respective daughters through different timelines and locations (USA and sometimes China). It explored different aspects of mother/daughter relationships and even characters (especially the daughters) learned more about their mothers meanwhile which impacted their character development.

I loved how Amy Tan portrayed those relationships, each was unique which its special hardships and difficulties but also joys and humor. I found it very realistic and sometimes relatable in a way. The daughters and their mothers are within the same society, so we also saw their interactions with each other and that was interesting by itself. I surely preferred some daughters over others but all were flawed and well-written.

It's actually one of the few audiobooks I'd recommend reading instead of listening to the audio. I got confused sometimes remembering who's who since all of the characters were told in the same voice and sometimes I missed the transition. Like I mentioned before, we had several timelines and multiple characters and I'm not gonna lie, I couldn't distinguish who's whom sometimes until I was well into the book. However, if you're like me, prefer to listen to fiction as audio and read other genres, then I think it's still worth a try because I enjoyed it anyhow. Something I should mention is that there are two editions of the audiobook, one narrated by the author (but uncomplete, at least on overdrive) and another read by Gwendoline Yeo. The second is your one. I compared the two narrations and honestly, Yeo's was better.

Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
503 reviews524 followers
March 22, 2019
Madre mía que llorera más grande con el emotivo final de este maravilloso libro. Ha sido brutal. Que pena haber postergado tanto la lectura de Amy Tan. Este es de esos libros que te llevan de viaje por diferentes vidas y el recorrido ha sido espectacular.

La historia nos va a narrar la vida de cuatro madres chinas (Anmei, Suyuan, Lindo y Ying-ying) que a raíz de la guerra y la pobreza tuvieron que emigrar a América y de sus cuatros hijas (Rose, Jingmei, Waverly y Lena) ya americanas de nacimiento. El choque de culturas siempre es uno de mis temas favoritos y en este libro resulta aún más interesante ver este choque entre madres e hijas. Madres que luchan por que sus hijas aprendan lo que implica ser china e hijas, que sin entenderlas huyen de todo lo relacionados con China por miedo a no encajar en la sociedad estadounidense.

La cultura asiática tan rica en simbología siempre me flipa. Me parece maravilloso como cada madre tiene un sentido para cada pequeña cosa, de los rasgos de un rostro a el clima o para el día del nacimiento. Me parece super interesante ver que más que fe en dioses y seres sobrenaturales, tienen fe en la naturaleza, en el uso que hagan de esas supersticiones y en sus propia familia.

Me gusta mucho la enseñanza final del valor de una madre, y que muchas veces, cuando lxs hijxs se quieren dar cuenta, ya es tarde. Y es cuando se encuentran con que no conocían realmente a lo más importante que tenían. Y es lo que pasa en esta novela, estas hijas solo entienden a sus madres, y comienzan a valorarlas cuando ya son mayores o cuando falta una de ellas.

En definitiva, una novela familiar, dulce y dura a partes iguales y sobre todo una novela de mujeres fuertes, mujeres dueñas de su destino. Me he enamorado de Amy Tan <3
Profile Image for Kerri.
989 reviews369 followers
October 24, 2021
Oh wow, I've been thinking about this review for a while now and it's gotten to the point where I just have to write something, anything!

I really loved this book. It was a buddy read with my friend Carolyn, and it was a great choice for that as there is a lot to discuss and it's very interesting to see what stands out to someone else and why. I had actually read this before, but I only remembered the "lost babies". I had thought that was a revelation from the end of the novel, but it is mentioned right at the beginning, though followed up again later. The pleasing thing about this memory lapse was that so much of the book did feel new to me. When I first read it I found the stories of the mothers, and their lives in China, far more interesting, whereas this time I found the daughters in America just as compelling, though in different ways. With the mothers, I am learning about a country that I am not that familiar with, which is of course fascinating, but I ended up find the daughters trials and perspectives just as valuable.

I loved seeing the ways the mothers saw their daughters and vice versa, the things they understood and the things they missed. Each character's story felt vital and completely captivated me, even Waverly, who I disliked when she appeared in the stories of the other woman, proved to be an interesting character to follow.

The book comes in at under 300 pages but so much happens in it that it's quite incredible really. I had mean to read it just a chapter or two a day but I ended up with a free afternoon and spent the entire time completely caught up in what was happening, finishing the book before I'd even realised it! I was so pleased to reach Jing-Mei Woo's final chapter and read everything that took place in it. I have been reminded of just how much I enjoy Amy Tan's writing and will be seeking out more of her books.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
April 19, 2020
A collection of linked short stories sketching the complexities of mother-daughter bonds between Chinese-American women. Alternating between tales set in China and the United States, the work sensitively renders the inner lives of four friends and their daughters, who struggle to communicate with each other and clash over the course of their future.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,133 followers
March 19, 2019
I feel kind of cheated out what could have been a great story by a truly dreadful narration on audible. Some of the voices were totally over the top and sounded cartoonish and listening to this one became a annoying and I gave up 30% in to the book.

Audible can make or break a book unfortunately this one didnt work for me as its difficult to concentrate on the words when the narrator is using cartoonish voices or on some of the characters and because this is a story where there are many characters and many stories this can become quite tedious. However the great thing about audible is you can return the book if for whatever reason you are not enjoying the experience and I think this is works pretty well as every now and again I come across a narrator that just takes away from a book.

While I didn't enjoy the audio version I dont think I will invest in the hard copy format as I found the structure of the story confusing and while I like books that examine mother and daugher relationships and stories where American Immigrants families tell their stories, I did find the story skipped around too much and I was having difficulty connecting with the characters. Again this may be down to the audio version but I am not feeling the love so not going to invest any more time or cash on this one.
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 11 books7,641 followers
May 4, 2020

The Joy Luck Club is one of those books that everyone has heard of, everyone has added to their TBR under some sort of shelf name like “books i should read” and everyone glances over in favor of the latest release with hype.

I’m not judging you. I’m guilty of the same.

I picked up a pristine first edition of this at a local rummage sale last year and had the foresight to put in on top of my dresser, which serves as a sort of physical TBR reminding me of all the books I should read before going on another one-click binge on Amazon.

It’s interesting, how stress affects our lives. So many of my friends are turning to fluffy rom-coms to see them through the pandemic, and I get that. Rom-coms are escapism at its finest.

I tried reading one two days ago and just couldn’t.

For some strange reason, I’ve been drawn to grittier books instead. Thrillers. Grimdark. And now, The Joy Luck Club. Which is ironic because it literally has the word “Joy” in the title.

That’s not to say that this is some heavy, depressing read. There IS a lot of joy in this book. But there’s also a lot of hardship. This book centers on four Chinese women and their daughters. The mothers are immigrants, the children born in the US.

This was released in 1989 but is still so relevant today. And because of the lack of pop culture references in the daughters’ stories, it reads like it could have been written today.

I Googled this book after finishing it and was surprised to see there was so much backlash against it. People painted Amy Tan as being racist against her own culture and of denigrating Asian men because they were negatively portrayed in this book.

But they weren’t all portrayed negatively. Some of the male Asian characters were incredibly kind, strong, and steadfast. As a side note, white men were equally shitty, if not more so, and a lot of the women were just as problematic as the men. In short, they read like real people.

And that’s because the author based this book on her own mother’s stories.

Here’s the thing modern readers need to know before they write this off before reading it based on old, negative reviews or Reddit threads. This book is loosely biographical. Tan’s experiences are not going to be the experiences of every Asian American.

The Joy Luck Club had a huge burden to bear. It was an incredibly popular book about Asian Americans at a time when there was very little representation. The same goes for the movie.

Which put the onus of representing an entire people on ONE person. And more importantly, one woman of color.

Even today women of color are expected to go above and beyond and be absolutely perfect in every single way to get a seat at the table. Yes, we are making headway, and yes, a larger percentage of the population understands that WoC are just as fallible and varied and complex and flawed as everyone else, but there is still so. Much. Progress. To. Be. Made.

Is it any wonder that back in 1989 Amy Tan was made a pariah?

As I write this, Asian and Asian American representation is increasing. In the Young Adult fiction category especially, not to mention blockbuster movies like Crazy Rich Asians.

Reading The Joy Luck Club now will likely only be one of many stories about Asian Americans for readers instead of THE ONE.

Is this book flawless? Nope. Are there some legit criticisms to be made against it? You betcha. The same can be said for all books. I am not in any way shape or form saying that people are not allowed to criticize this. But, in a broader sense,

It’s time people forgive Amy Tan for not being perfect.

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Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,000 reviews
January 5, 2022
آمي تان تكتب عن الاختلاف بين الثقافات وبين الأجيال
عن الهجرة وصعوبات التكيف مع المجتمعات الجديدة
ومشكلة الهوية واختلاف الأفكار والمعتقدات بالنسبة لل��يل الثاني من الأبناء
العلاقة بين أربع أمهات وبناتهم .. أربع نساء من الصين هاجروا إلى أمريكا
تحكي كل أم عن حياتها وعن المعتقدات الصينية والعادات والتقاليد المقيدة للمرأة
وتحكي البنات عن الحيرة ما بين الانتماء للأصل وبين النشأة وطريقة الحياة الأمريكية
حكايات ممتعة بأسلوب جميل وخاصةً أحاديث الأمهات وما يملكنه من قوة وذكاء في التعامل
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,414 followers
May 6, 2019
I'm not generally someone who rereads a lot of books, but 30 years (!) seems to be the mark at which I become curious about whether I'll still feel the same way about some of my favorites. Amy Tan is an interesting case, because she's still writing novels, I've read nearly all of them, and I've liked them all—there aren't many authors I can say that about! It's a potential landmine to rereading, because all the things that seemed fresh and new about The Joy Luck Club have since become Tan's oft-imitated trademarks. Would the whole thing seem old-hat to me now?

Fortunately, this is where a scaffolding of good writing comes in handy. At this point in my life I'm less enamored of books with multiple narrators, and to be perfectly honest I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight, which I don't think was a problem the first time I read this. But the simple, lively writing, the humor, the great characters, the perfect level of detail—not too much or too little—was all just as I remembered, and the ending moved me to tears exactly as I'm sure it did the first time around. Back when The Joy Luck Club was a publishing sensation, I don't think we could've guessed it would be around forever, but except for one character getting a perm, this novel doesn't seem the least bit dated. If you've never read this before, what are you waiting for? And if you have, feel free to dive in again without reservation.
Profile Image for Joe.
51 reviews6 followers
May 22, 2007
Ok, I admit it, I was obsessed with Amy Tan my first year of college. I learned all there was about her, read The Joy Luck Club, and finally I gave up hope.
As a freshmen, at Linfield College, I was astonished that Amy Tan could have possibly walked the same hallowed halls of Melrose, perhaps sat in the same offices in the English department, or read a book in Northrup's astro-turf room.
My daydreams were filled with her coming over to my dorm room to have tea and "talk literature." She would tell me what truly inspired her, some secrets and a few great jokes.
In reality, I spent a lot of time looking her up in the old yearbooks at the library, Oak Leaves circa 1970 and 1971 (I think). Horribly despicable. I did learn some of her secrets. I learned that she never graduated from Linfield, which pretty much means nothing...but I did discover that she (possibly) met her husband there, Mr. Lou DeMattei. Also during this first year of Linfield, I got one of those jobs at the PHONE-A-THON, calling alumni to "update their information" and beg for donations. I was going to call Amy Tan, and speak with her myself. Thankfully, for my sanity, I quit before that happened.

Amy began to dissolve as an enigma for me, she was just another celebrity, another writer of a book. The book was beautifully written and for obvious reasons made me homesick. It made me feel closer to my mother than ever, and I knew that, like the women in the book, I would have a special bond with her forever.

The sad thing is, after I finished the book, my love affair a la John Hinckley Jr. with Amy Tan ended, and I cannot bear to pick up any of her other books.

Another hilarious thing is I found this on Tan's website:
Please make special note of personal errata #2 and #9.
I rest my case. We were meant to be with each other.
Profile Image for Ngoc.
170 reviews
June 26, 2019
I love this book! As a first generation child in this country (my parents immigrated from Vietnam), I could really relate to the girls in the story. I was the girl who played piano, always being forced to practice. Although I loved music and was a talented pianist, I quit because I couldn't deal with the pressure anymore. It wasn't for my enjoyment, it was to please my parents (or at least that's what it seemed like). I think we all have ways of dealing with the pressures of childhood.

A difference this book made for me was actually reading about Asian [American] people. Throughout my life/education, it was always the books about white people but I never experienced reading about my culture until I read Joy Luck Club. I like how she incorporates the old and the new. Obviously the girls' stories could not be told without knowing those of the mothers. I think Amy Tan is fabulous at painting the picture of everything involved in the Asian-Asian American immigrant-first generation experience: differences in culture, assimilating to the new country, passing down the old traditions, the rollercoaster of emotions all family members go through in a different way.

I have read Joy Luck Club many times. I think I want to read it again just after writing this review; it's that good.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,713 followers
February 25, 2011
I gave The Joy Luck Club two stars, but that ranking is based solely on my personal enjoyment of the novel. I feel, quite honestly, that I do not have any business judging the quality of Amy Tan's most famous work.

I am a white, bearded, slightly overweight, off-kilter, stay-at-home Dad/author who teaches part time at a Canadian university and full time at home. I love dark and violent American literature. I love speculative fiction. I love Aubrey/Maturin. I love Shakespeare. I love Keats and Byron and Blake. I love the Lost Generation.

What I know of China comes from indoctrinated Cold War disdain, my Marxist world view, martial arts movies, a few trips to Epcot center, my love for Asian cuisine, M*A*S*H*, bad television documentaries, and the contradictions that adhere to that bizarre list (oops! I almost forgot Big Trouble in Little China). So I recognize that I see The Joy Luck Club though a massive filter. There are countless removes between me and those beautiful ladies doing their "tiger-mom" bit between games of Mah-Jong and good eats.

I appreciated the window into an experience that I wouldn't otherwise have in my world; I sympathized with their stories and struggles; I pulled for their happiness and that of their daughters; I kept reading dutifully. But I never really felt myself understanding any of these women despite my desire to do so.

My two stars are my failure rather than Tan's. She did her job well. It just wasn't my pot of green tea. I wish it were.
Profile Image for Micah Cummins.
206 reviews207 followers
April 18, 2021
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is the story four Chinese immigrant families living in San Fransisco who start a club playing Mahjong and feasting on their favorite meals. Throughout these meetings, four mothers, four daughters, and four families stories are interwoven. The mothers and daughters are shown in contrast through most of the plot. The mothers want their daughters to be more Chinese, while the daughters wish their mothers would be more interested in their American lives, and their new ways of living, which are often in conflict with the old ways their mothers know. All in all, I really enjoyed The Joy Luck Club I was moved by many of the stories, and felt attached to many characters by the end. Four stars.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,236 reviews145 followers
November 7, 2021
I really loved this book with its varied story lines-- each with a tender tale that told a different view of life in China and as American immigrants.

I actually preferred the mothers' story lines to the daughters' but maybe that's because the past stories explained so much more than the present story lines.

A lovely read.
Profile Image for Celeste Ng.
Author 16 books88.2k followers
May 31, 2007
I'm generally very wary of books about The Chinese-American Experience, because--well, names like Spring Lotus and Moon Blossom drive me nuts. So many books about Chinese culture flaunt their Chineseness, usually at the expense of other things that make a book good, like memorable characters and careful writing.

But I didn't hate _The Joy Luck Club_. The book as a whole is a collection of interlinked short stories, and it mostly works. Sure, some of the stories ("Two Kinds") have been anthologized to death, that's what we associate the book with. But Tan's writing, especially in the other stories that have been overlooked, is powerful, and the storylines and and characters are complex.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews432 followers
November 25, 2015
Amy Tan's very successful first novel was a national best-seller, a finalist for the National Book Award, and was made into a movie. It is a novel about four Chinese mothers who came to America during World War II, and their four Chinese/American daughters. The mothers quietly hold on to their past, their culture, and it's traditions, while adapting to their American life. They try to pass the essence of what is most important about their old culture on to their daughters, who, being born in America, are only interrested in American culture and lifestyles. They scoff at their mothers for acting too Chinese.

All eight characters, four mothers, four daughters, have a narrative in the story. It's a compelling story of mothers and daughters, the power of maternal love, and youth's struggle to establish independence, to find their own way. Mothers may be harder on their daughters than on their sons because they have already made the mistakes, and they know the pitfalls that await their daughters.

What was most enjoyable for me in the novel was the stories of the mothers, their past lives in China, from little girrls to adulthood, before they came to America. It's the story of their struggles with their own mothers, and how the impact of culture, traditions, and World War II shaped their lives.

I struggled somewhat with the structure of the novel. You have eight different narratives spread over four families, two countries, and a half century. Tying that all together, along with the secondary characters, was daunting at times. I read the book and listened to the audiobook at the same time. The accents and intonations of the narrator was a big plus.

4 solid stars.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,309 reviews20 followers
January 29, 2016
The Joy Luck Club is a great book. It tells the stories of four women who were born in China but were forced to leave due to various tragic circumstances, and their four daughters who were all born in America. The novel explores the cultural divide between the two generations of women and explores how national identity influences people's lives.

The daughters are all, to some degree, frustrated by their mothers' inability to shake off their anachronistic Chinese superstitious behavior (as their daughters think of it) and seeming reluctance to embrace the culture of their new home. The mothers despair at the willingness of their daughters to distance themselves from their heritage. Amy Tan writes all eight characters' viewpoints sympathetically and I never felt like I was being told which viewpoint was the 'correct' one. As with most things in life, it all comes down to the fact that there are pros and cons to any way of life, which is one of the reasons this life can be so hard to navigate.

The structure of this book is very clever, although it might go completely over your head if you're not at least passingly familiar with mahjong. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, the structure of mahjong is that four players have to play four hands of tiles each. The novel mimics this by having four larger sections, each divided into four smaller parts. Superficially, the book reads like a collection of interconnected short stories, rather than a cohesive novel, but the author interweaves these stories so adeptly that it all comes together by the end of the book

I found this book to be deeply moving and I even had tears in my eyes at one point. This was my first Amy Tan novel but I will definitely be reading more of her work in future.

P.S. - Gwendoline Yeo does an absolutely fantastic job reading the audiobook version. She switches between different voices and accents fluidly and seemingly effortlessly... and there are a lot of different voices in this book.
Profile Image for Eugenia Fontana.
14 reviews144 followers
March 26, 2019
A pesar de que me esperaba algo totalmente distinto, la narración y las voces de los personajes me cautivaron por completo.
No tengo dudas de que las madres e hijas de esta historia se van a quedar conmigo por mucho tiempo.
Profile Image for Mary.
428 reviews787 followers
August 9, 2017
It amazes me that The Joy Luck Club is almost 25 years old, yet I'm not sure why as it seems as though I've known about it for most of my life. It's just one of those books everyone seems to have heard of. Why I put off reading it for so long I can't say. Though this book didn't quite live up to my expectations, I'm glad I read it.

I think the main problem was that the book felt like it needed to be longer. There were eight central characters, four mothers and their four daughters, and with the chapters being somewhat short and the book being under 300 pages, there was not a lot of time for Tan to completely develop her characters. In fact, several of them merged into one uber-tragic-Chinese-female character in my brain, especially the mothers. It was hard to distinguish them and their back stories from each other.

I preferred the daughter chapters. The "Americanized" daughters and their Caucasian boyfriends and husbands and ex-husbands and their westernized failures and miseries and competitiveness. Their messy divorces and careers and therapists. They're not quite American and not quite Chinese. Tan captured the tension and misunderstandings between the mothers and daughters well. Being a daughter of immigrants myself, I found myself smiling and smirking quite often at this in-between world that only us first generationers can truly understand.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,931 reviews438 followers
February 9, 2019
Amy Tan's 'The Joy Luck Club' is a monumental novel about the epic love of Mothers and Daughters (so everyday common that all societies ignore the miracle and beauty of it). These mothers and daughters are connected by their genes, but they are separated by their culture and life experiences despite living under the same roof for decades - however, all are very very very fortunate with the joy and luck of each one growing up loving each other.

To me, this seems to be almost a Great Book, but with much more relationship and family comedy represented and without the width of life present in Great Books (the effects of war were strikingly missing or compressed, as were the more terrible dramas of abuse or starvation). The narrow view of the story focusing on 'female' aspects of life, as well as, perhaps, the genre styling, declare this is a Woman's Great Book. Unfortunately, because it is focused on the typical constrained life of women, as well as being narrowed to parent/child love, I suspect many do not respect it. Thankfully, it was short-listed by many literary organizations. The one thing I did not enjoy myself about this novel was its structure. It is divided into four sets of four short stories per four eras of time from the point of view of each of four sets of mothers/daughters.

Four Chinese women immigrate to America after tough lives of proscribed emotions and lack of personal fulfillment. Three of them marry Chinese-Americans, one marries an American. All of them have American-born children. Each of them has a daughter who never learns the Chinese language beyond a few expressions and nothing of Chinese culture except odd mystifying stories of admonishment and instruction from their mothers.

The Chinese mothers are born and then married to their first husbands in China, for the most part in arranged marriages. But they end up eventually in America with second husbands, except for one mother who has only one marriage. Their daughters are born in America and they grow away from their mothers for a time. The daughters do not understand very much about their Chinese culture or their mothers, even though they observe and obey to a limited degree what their mothers wanted. However, once the daughters marry, sometimes twice, they grow close to their mothers. What I noticed was the Chinese mothers keep learning, changing and growing, too, along with their daughters, but these changes by the mothers were often completely overlooked by the daughters until much later. The progression of their relationships actually sounds like a universal one to me!

The barriers of generational differences were definitely higher between post-war women from China and late 20th-century American women, especially because of cultural expectations and duties. Language affects how the brain works as well.




Some readers thought Tan treated the mothers disrespectfully because she exposes the syncopated and peculiar, at least to the American mind as well as to these Chinese-American daughters, Chinese wisdom tales and country folk-quotes common to Chinese villages in the past. I think, to me as an American, these Chinese sayings and stories are very weird and opaque, but I bet one of the fault-lines of perception is built-in due to the differing constructions and pronouncing of words and sentences between English and Chinese (whether Mandarin or Cantonese). Besides, it is obvious to me these instances of comical miscommunication and fractured understandings in conversations between mother and daughter are not only based on reality, they are one of the bricks which support the loving relationship of daughters for their mothers. Many men, and I guess some women, do not understand love can be deepened by a daughter's feeling that her mother is a cute, even if spiky, supportive darling whose cultural oddities will be recalled with deep affection long after the parent is gone.

The concept of 'Face' and its connection to respect of elders is pure idiocy to me, especially when 'respect' is considered more important than affection. I do NOT think respect is more important than affection! I suspect some of the other reader complaints is based on a perceived lack of respect because of the American author's reveal of the American daughters' reactions to seeing cuteness and comedy in the oddities of the mothers teaching moments in translated vernacular. I saw my hearing cousins have giggly moments with translation peculiarities with their deaf parents; and I also saw their affection and underlying mutual, sometimes belated, recognition of comedic goings on in unintentional operatic emotional gestures of misunderstandings in their flying hands.

There is a lot of universal human depths of love and support between mothers and daughters hidden in these pages, although the focus is on Chinese social mores. However, I could also see that American cultural mores had eroded away parts of the Chinese social prism of the mothers.

I did pick up how much more painful it was for a Chinese mother to love a Chinese daughter in China in the past.

Patriarchal cultures are just plain fucking evil! This novel, as do many other novels and histories, demonstrates how terrible and torturous to women patriarchy is in the China chapters. Modern America has many problems, but at least it does not any longer culturally encourage mothers to kill off their love for daughters because girls are considered almost worthless commodities only men have the right to dispose of as if their daughters were ugly couches.

I think one day I will return to this book to read it again, but instead of reading it as the book is arranged in flipping between eight character narratives, each chapter a short story by a mother in one part, then each daughter having alternate chapters in the next part, I will stick with one family's narration skipping the other three until the end, then I'll go back to the beginning and read through another mother/daughter linked narrative.

I loved this book! So much joy and luck, indeed!
Profile Image for Kathy Maresca.
Author 1 book61 followers
November 11, 2022
One of my favorite books, The Joy Luck Club taught me quite about about Asian culture. Amy Tan masterfully describes her characters. They all became real to me, some I loved and some I loved to hate. The power of women is so beautifully displayed. A mother's love lies at the crux of this story. They are flawed, these moms, but protective and sometimes provocative in their attempts to shore their daughters' success.
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews967 followers
January 21, 2015
4.5 stars

The blurb on this edition focusses on the struggles of mothers and daughters to understand and help each other, and Tan's skill in conveying emotions. As usual, there is no acknowledgement of the book as a feminist work, so I'm going to begin by hailing it as such in all its woman-oriented glory. Aside from the fact that men are merely accessory to all of the narrative strands, and that the majority of conversations are between women and girls, Tan positively critiques patriarchal tropes throughout by revealing the constrictions on women's lives imposed structurally through their chattel position as wives and mothers, through their socialisation by older women, and through the domineering behaviour of men. Very overt features of gendered hierarchies which tend to hide in plain sight are kept in view, and Tan writes very cleverly to reveal more subtle aspects, making them evident in countless interactions, punctuating these little revelations with pauses for contemplation. Below the surface swim slow thoughts lightly veiled:
Even the old ladies had put on their best clothes to celebrate: Mama's aunt, Baba's mother and her cousin, and Great-uncle's fat wife, who still plucked her forehead bald and always walked as if she were crossing a slippery stream, two tiny steps and a scared look
This is surely an intimation, from a child's perspective, that the woman has bound feet. The treatment of An-Mei's mother, who has become a concubine to a rich man after being widowed, illuminates some of the distinctive features of (pre-communist) Chinese heteropatriarchy. However, Tan is not about to aid the cause of USian supremacy and White saviourism by setting stories like this against a mythical American equality; her depictions of marriages and relationships in the US reveal a different but hardly better situation for women, especially Chinese/immigrant women for whom White husbands feel entitled to speak.

My favourite mother-as-girl story is Lindo Jong's. Trapped in a marriage that places her in servitude to an exacting and heartless mother-in-law, she nonetheless uses great ingenuity. The moment when she recognises her impressive inner resources is striking; few girls can rely on such self-confidence and awareness, but even so armed, her empowerment is very limited, so the story throws light on the real plight of girls like her. I was even more fascinated though, by the ways that Chinese cultural values and traditions played out in her scheming. This happened throughout the book; modes of modesty, influencing of feelings and events, showing love, all revealed ways of knowing and being rooted in different soils and waters and fed by different suns from those that have nourished me.

Miscommunication, misunderstanding, is inevitable in the meeting of USian directness and the more subtle, artful Chinese manner of expression, heedful of hidden feelings deduced through the fine filaments of perceptive empathy only a combination of shared culture, affinity and thoughtfulness can forge. Careful reading reveals that supposed 'directness' leaves many things sadly incommunicable. Much humour is made at the mothers' expense:
One day, as she struggled to weave a hard-toothed comb through my disobedient hair, I had a sly thought. I asked her 'Ma, what is Chinese torture?' My mother shook her head. A bobby pin was wedged between her lips. She wetted her palm and smoothed the hair above my ear, then pushed the pin in so that it nicked sharply against my scalp. 'Who say this word?' she asked without a trace of knowing how wicked I was being. I shrugged my shoulders and said 'Some boy in my class said Chinese people do Chinese torture.' 'Chinese people do many things,' she said simply. 'Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture.'
This kind of intimate mockery is hilarious, but a risky thing to gift to an outsider like me. I had the feeling that I must be careful not to generalise beyond time, place and particularity, to find myself thinking 'I know this about Chinese mothers, because I read it in The Joy Luck Club'. Another difficulty I had was with disturbing aspects of anti-Blackness and homophobia which I wanted to chase up, but which had to be let drop, presumably for the next generation, the grandaughters, to decolonise. I enjoyed, on the other hand, the wry laughs minted from the thoughtlessness self centredness of ignorant White men.

Degrees of integration vary, but all of the mothers are at some stage shocked by the extent of their daughters' assimilation into USian culture, while the daughters feel to some extent cut off from their Chinese heritage. If I wanted to extract a lesson, it would be: maintain your culture against Whiteness! Whatever is in you or known to you that is not White, honour it, nourish it, tell it, create with it, share it, weave it into the new stories you live and make. It takes, surely, deep effort and much energy to resist the action of White supremacy, the hollowing out of living cultures into exotified fetishes, consumable and subsumed.

I recommend this book especially to those who like reading about food, as I do. Tan presents a culture relentlessly attentive to good eating, the comforts of the table, and the expression of love through cooking. The demythologising fortune cookie story, brilliantly conceived, is, to me, this book in a nutshell.
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