1989 – “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

When I first moved to the city where I now live, over thirty years ago, I was part of a book club. I think, looking back, that I was drawn into it by people I met on an Open University course. I can’t remember much about it now except that many of the books we read were literary fiction which was quite challenging for me because up until that point I had mainly read genre fiction and classics. I remember finding some of the choices quite bewildering because I didn’t have the experience and skills to understand them – some of them would confuse me still. One of the books that we read was The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan which I remember enjoying, which is all I do remember about it. In homage to the club and the other members (whose identities are now lost in the mists of time) I decided to read this book for my 60 Books from 60 Years challenge. None of it came back to me as I read so it has been thoroughly forgotten, but I was right about it being an enjoyable read.

The novel is written as a series of short stories, each written by one of the four women who founded the Joy Luck Club when they immigrated to America from China after WW2 or by one of their daughters. Some of the stories are about the migrant experience, some about what it is like to be from an ethnic minority and living in America, and others about trying to live as a woman in either China or America. All of the stories touch on the relationships between mothers and daughters.

The Joy Luck Club is a group of four women who gather to play mah-jong in America having come from China. Their stories are about the difficulties of being a woman in China or being an immigrant. Their daughters’ stories are about what it was like to grow up the child of immigrants, the expectations they felt were placed upon them and how they feel about being American women of Chinese extraction. There are 16 stories as each character has two which may or may not be connected. None of them is very long and they each standalone although together they build into a picture of the Chinese immigrant experience for women and the particular issues of the mother/daughter relationship.

This is not a hard read but it is, on occasions, an enlightening one.

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