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The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,101 ratings  ·  695 reviews
Delve into the stories from Amy Tan's life that inspired bestselling novels like The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement and the new memoir, Where the Past Begins

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
Paperback, 398 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Cavak Here are some links to some critical reviews, though I don't think this is a book that really warrants it:
Here are some links to some critical reviews, though I don't think this is a book that really warrants it:

As a bonus, here's the link of her NPR interview for this book too:

Community Reviews

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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,101 ratings  ·  695 reviews

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Feb 01, 2009 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
Clark Carlton
May 15, 2013 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
Apr 04, 2008 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.
Oct 18, 2008 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
Mar 09, 2012 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 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
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 22, 2010 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 insightf ...more
Apr 02, 2015 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 rated it really liked it
Good book – she writes a self-deprecating memoir. Her family history was very interesting.
Karen Floyd
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, memoir, writing
This is a wonderful collection of essays, and other non-fiction writings, from novelist Amy Tan. She talks about her life, her mother and father, and her family history, and reveals how the things that happened to her and to her family have impacted her novels. She tells us about her writing process and how she came to write her first few novels. "The Joy Luck Club" started life as a collection of short stories, since Tan began her writing life as a short story writer. One essay talks about the ...more
Anthony Connolly
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A throughly enjoyable book of “musings” on the writing life by the inestimable Amy Tan. Here she talks about some of the misconceptions about her persona, tells eerie stories of shocking coincidence but also about her favorite writer and how Hollywood treated her first book The Joy Luck Club. I probably need to revisit that book. A favorite passage: “For me, writing from memory is more about remembering my psychological place in the world at different stages of my life. Where did I fit in my fam ...more
Cynthia Sillitoe
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This collection of essays is solid and intriguing.
Jeanie McCoy
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book on how she got started writing and what inspired her. It was entertaining as well as enlightening to read.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone, but particularly Amy Tan fans
Shelves: memoirs
This book was a pleasure to read. I don't know whether it could technically be called a memoir; it's basically a collection of mostly autobiographical essays and musings. Whatever its classification, these essays were well-written (no surprise there), interesting, provocative, and often funny. Amy Tan had just the right degree of self-deprecating humor so that she came across as refreshingly humble but not neurotic -- someone I would probably enjoy being friends with, as opposed to many other au ...more
Dec 20, 2009 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
Feb 21, 2011 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
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 o ...more
May 18, 2012 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 foun ...more
Apr 19, 2007 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
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2013 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.
Aug 29, 2012 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.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, non-fiction
We've had this book for years and I only just got to it before 2016 ended.

It was sitting on the shelf with me thinking "I read enough Amy Tan, they're all similar books". Glad I finally read it. This one was definitely different. Maybe it's a good time to reread her books and see how I feel about them now.
Oct 01, 2015 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.
May 10, 2013 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
Aug 16, 2015 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.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Funny and insightful and full of charm. Loved it.
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Diversity in All ...: The Opposite of Fate (March 2019) 1 14 Mar 01, 2019 05:02AM  
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 78 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
“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.”
“Lack of clarity is a writer's truth.” 8 likes
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