Amy Tan

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Amy Tan
Amy Tan.jpg
Tan in 2007
Born Amy Tan
(1952-02-19) February 19, 1952 (age 63)
Oakland, California
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Alma mater San Jose State University bachelor and master degrees
UC Santa Cruz & UC Berkeley doctoral
Notable works The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan
Chinese 譚恩美

Amy Tan (born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese-American experience. Her best-known work is The Joy Luck Club, which has been translated into 35 languages. In 1993, the book was adapted into a commercially successful film.

Tan has written several other bestselling novels, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter and Saving Fish from Drowning. She also wrote a collection of non-fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings. In addition to these, 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 which aired on PBS. She also appeared on PBS in a short spot encouraging children to write. Tan is also in a band with several other well-known writers, the Rock Bottom Remainders.

Personal life[edit]

Tan was born in Oakland, California. She is the second of three children born to Chinese immigrants Daisy (née Li),[1] and John Tan, an electrical engineer and Baptist minister. When Tan was 15 years old, her older brother Peter and father both died of brain tumors within eight months of each other.[2] Daisy moved Amy and her younger brother John Jr. to Switzerland, where Amy finished high school,[3] at the Institut Monte Rosa, Montreux. During this period in her life, Amy learned about her mother's former marriage to an abusive man in China, of their four children (a son who died as a toddler, and three daughters) and how her mother was forced to leave her children from a previous marriage behind in Shanghai. This incident provided the basis for Tan's first novel, 1989 New York Times bestseller The Joy Luck Club.[4] In 1987 Amy traveled with Daisy to China. There, Amy met her three half-sisters.[5]

Tan began her college days at Linfield College in Oregon before transferring to San José State University in California because she had fallen in love with Lou DeMattei, an Italian American.[2] Tan received her bachelor's and master's degrees in English and linguistics from San José State, and later did doctoral linguistics studies at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley.[6] While in school, she worked odd jobs—switchboard operator, carhop, bartender, and pizza maker—before starting a writing career. As a freelance business writer, she worked on projects for AT&T, IBM, Bank of America and Pacific Bell.[2]

In a New York Times "Room for Debate" piece "Deconstructing Lyme Disease", "My Plight with the Illness", Amy Tan discussed her late-stage case.[7]

She resides in Sausalito, California, with her husband, DeMattei, in a house they designed "to feel open and airy, like a tree house, but also to be a place where we could live comfortably into old age," with accessibility features.[8] He is a tax attorney whom she met on a blind date and married in 1974.[9][10]

Work and themes[edit]

Tan's first novel was The Joy Luck Club, published in 1989, which became a best-seller. The novel consists of sixteen related stories about the experiences of four Chinese-American mother-daughter pairs.[11]

In 1991, The Kitchen God's Wife was published. Tan's second novel was critically acclaimed and also focuses on the relationship between an immigrant Chinese mother and her American-born daughter.[2]

The Hundred Secret Senses, published in 1995, was a departure from the first two novels, in focusing on the relationships between sisters. The Bonesetter's Daughter, Tan's fourth novel, tells the story of an immigrant Chinese woman and her American-born daughter.



Tan's work has been adapted into films and other media. The Joy Luck Club was adapted into a both a play and a film in 1993. The Bonesetter's Daughter was adapted into an opera in 2008. Tan's children's book Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat was adapted into a PBS animated television show.[13]



Children's books[edit]


  • Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America With Three Cords and an Attitude (with Dave Barry, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Barbara Kingsolver) (1994)
  • Mother (with Maya Angelou, Mary Higgins Clark) (1996)
  • The Best American Short Stories 1999 (Editor, with Katrina Kenison) (1999)
  • The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2003, ISBN 9780399150746)
  • Hard Listening, co-authored in July 2013, an interactive ebook about her participation in a writer/musician band, the Rock Bottom Remainders. Published by Coliloquy, LLC.[14]


In popular culture[edit]

Tan was featured on The Simpsons episode "Insane Clown Poppy" on Season 12, Episode 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sherryl Connelly (February 27, 2001). "Mother As Tormented Muse Amy Tan Drew On A Dark Past For 'Daughter'". (New York Daily News). Archived from the original on 2011-03-14. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Huntley, E.D. (1998). Amy Tan: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 5–7, 80. ISBN 0313302073. 
  3. ^ "The Archives of my Personality", address to American Association of Museums General Session (Los Angeles), May 26, 2010
  4. ^ "Amy Tan Biography". Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Penguin Reading Guides - The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan". Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Amy Tan Biography". Archived from the original on July 2, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2008. 
  7. ^ Amy Tan (August 11, 2013). "My Plight with the Illness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  8. ^ Tan, Amy (July 30, 2014). "Amy Tan on Joy and Luck at Home: The novelist builds a home she can grow old in". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kinsella, Bridget (August 9, 2013). "‘Fifty Shades of Tan’: Amy Tan". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  10. ^ Tauber, Michelle (November 3, 2003). "A New Ending". People Magazine. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Amy Tan." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 257. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center.
  12. ^ Hoyte, Kirsten D. Contradiction and Culture: Revisiting Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" (Again). Publication. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  13. ^ "Sagwa: About the show". PBS Kids. 
  14. ^ "Hard Listening". 
  15. ^ "National Book Awards". Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "APALA: 2005-2006 Awards". 
  18. ^ "The Big Read: The Joy Luck Club". 
  19. ^ "1993-2008 Golden Plate Recipients". Retrieved 12 October 2014. 

External links[edit]