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Amy Tan Biography

(1952– ), The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses

american china mother california

Chinese-American novelist, born in Oakland, California, educated in California and Switzerland, and at the San José State University. Tan's parents were immigrants from mainland China and her fictions are inspired, in part, by the history of her own family. In her first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989), her mother's experiences of semi-feudal China, of the Civil War, and of the advent of the Communist Revolution are refracted through the perspectives of the first-generation immigrant mothers of resolutely, if ambivalently, American daughters. The Kitchen God's Wife (1991), concentrating on the relationship between a mother and daughter, explores the position of women in pre-revolutionary China; it was followed by The Hundred Secret Senses (1996). Tan's recurring theme—the contrast between the Chinese past and the American present—and the exotic imagery she employs in her prose place her within a tradition of Asian-American writing closely identified with Maxine Hong Kingston. Her novels, which bridge the gap between the literary and the popular, have also been compared to the novels of Louise Erdrich, Bharati Mukherjee, and Isabel Allende.

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