Jenna's Reviews > The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club
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 the difficult truths of Asian-American mother-daughter relationships, exposing the hidden realities of my private life to the public eye. A risky thing to do, as Amy Chua learned to her chagrin decades later. 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 devious and damaged women, intelligent and yet conditioned by society to waste their intelligence scheming against each other?
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