Diversiverse! The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

September 19, 2014 Asia, Diversiverse 24

Salutations, Bookworms!

I am SO HAPPY to be participating in A More Diverse Universe right now. It’s offered me an opportunity to FINALLY get something off my TBR pile. A few months ago, I won a copy of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan from Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall. I’ve read several Amy Tan novels and enjoyed them immensely, but I felt rather ridiculous knowing that I hadn’t read her most famous work, The Joy Luck Club. I mean, you say “Amy Tan” and that’s what you think, right? I was determined to tackle this one. So determined, in fact, that I chose it for my IRL book club this month as well. I am nothing if not efficient. Well. Efficient, or lazy. One of the two.


In case you were living under a rock like I apparently have been, The Joy Luck Club is a novel about mothers and daughters. Four Chinese women emigrate to the United States and settle in San Francisco. Each of the women goes on to have a daughter (or several) to raise in the US. The mothers and daughters struggle to understand one another through clashing cultures.

thejoyluckclubThe book is divided into four major sections, two devoted to the stories of the mothers and two devoted to the stories of the daughters. If I’m being honest (and really, when am I not honest?) I found myself flipping back and forth through the chapters to connect which mother belonged to which daughter. Learning a bit about each mother’s childhood and not realizing right away which daughters’ life they were connected to frustrated me a little bit, hence the flipping. Still, a bit of page flipping didn’t dampen what was an excellent story.

The daughters in The Joy Luck Club had a heck of a time trying to live up to the expectations of their mothers while growing up in a world with vastly different values. The mothers were desperate to impart the complexities and nuances of Chinese culture to their offspring, but communication styles differed so vastly between the two cultures that conflict was inevitable.

I can’t help but assume this book, with its emphasis on mother/daughter communication was heavily influenced by Amy Tan’s life. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Tan was raised with one foot in each of two worlds, Chinese and American. After reading her bio, I am seeing parallels all up in this piece! Here’s a little about Amy Tan written by the lady herself:

Amy was born in the United States in 1952, a few years after her parents immigrated from China. Her father, John, was an electrical engineer and also a Baptist minister. Her mother, Daisy, left behind a secret past, including three daughters in China and the ghost of her mother, who had killed herself when Daisy was nine. The Tan family belonged to a small social group called The Joy Luck Club, whose families enacted the immigrant version of the American Dream by playing the stock market. Nearly every year, the Tan family moved, from one mixed neighborhood in Oakland after another and eventually to a series of nearly all-white suburbs in the Bay Area.

Let’s chat, Bookworms. Mother/daughter clashes are certainly nothing extraordinary, as virtually every mother who has raised a daughter through her teenage years can attest. It’s time to air the dirty laundry. What is the dumbest fight your teenage self ever had with your mom? Mine involves an impassioned request for a drum set… When I’d never actually played the drums… So. Yeah. Spill!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll use it to buy my mother a thank-you gift for, well, dealing with me. I was an especially morose teenager…*

24 Responses to “Diversiverse! The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan”

  1. Quirky Chrissy

    I loved The Joy Luck Club. It was one of the books I read in college for fun when I was supposed to be reading something else for class. There was this amazing universal parallel with the mother daughter relationship. My mom really loves the movie, and I remember watching it with her and not really understanding until I was older. The unspoken competition that June’s mother has with Waverly’s mother was very much like that of my mom and my my best friends’ mom.

  2. Lost in Literature 108

    Hey! I won the other copy from Monika. The drop-cap edition. Mine is still in the shrink wrap though. But it is pretty and purple.:)

    To answer your question: My mom is so sweet, it was hard to muster up a fight with her. But we did have a long stand-off once when she was going to buy me a new outfit for cheerleading tryouts, IF I got my room in acceptable shape. She held out for about four days on that one. I gave a mediocre effort on the room and she still let me have the outfit. But I totally did not deserve it, and she was pretty angry with me.
    And I didn’t make the squad either.

  3. Hobbie DeHoy

    In my opinion, The Joy Luck Club is Amy Tan’s best work. None of her other books even come close… I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I was a passive teenager who avoided conflict at all costs, so I don’t have these memories, just a ton of inward resentment. It’s probably a lot healthier just to have the conflict.

  4. Amy @ Read a Latte

    Oh man, I remember fighting with my mom all the time when I was younger, but not one specific dumb one…probably because they were ALL dumb! I’m loving Diversiverse too! I’m reading A Tale for the Time Being right now, which I am LOVING so far!

    • Words For Worms

      Yeah I really thought that I NEEDED a drum set so that I could be a really cool girl in a really cool band and then all the boys would love me. It made absolutely no sense, and at the time I would NEVER have admitted that (a rather large) part of me just wanted to look cool to boys who played guitar…

  5. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    My mom is super sweet, but she and I clashed a lot when I was a teen because we’re verrrrrrry different people. Funny though, I don’t remember specific arguments or fights. I think it’s just that I’m a LOT more independent than she expected I’d be. 😉 This is my favorite of all Amy Tan’s novels, but I remember having trouble keeping track of the characters, too.

    • Words For Worms

      It’s funny, I think people fight the most when they’re SUPER different OR way too much alike. If you’re not on one extreme or the other it’s smoother sailing.

  6. Megan M.

    I haven’t read the book but I love the movie! If you haven’t seen it, it’s excellent.

    I didn’t have a horrible time with my mother the way that some teenagers seem to, but I remember very distinctly being 15 and thinking that everything that came out of her mouth was the most annoying thing I’d ever heard. LOL One time I mentioned to my mom that I liked to watch cheerleading competitions on TV. She found out that there was going to be one held in our town and told me about it, all excited. I was like “SO?!” in a super mean tone, because I would have been kind of embarrassed to go to one of those in person without knowing someone in it or having any sort of connection to cheerleading. I still feel bad about my reaction. :/

  7. Rhian

    I brought two books on holiday and one of them is The Joy Luck Club. Having said that, I haven’t picked up either book since we’ve been away, that’s nearly three weeks. I’m the opposite of most people in that I read less on holiday than normal.

    • Words For Worms

      I hope your holiday is FANTASTIC regardless of how much you read. I don’t vacation much, but the last trip we went on was to Disney World and the only reading I did was on the plane (and before bed, obviously, because otherwise I can’t sleep.) Sometimes you just have to enjoy the visceral :).

  8. Sarah Laurence

    I really enjoyed The Joy Luck Club, both the book and the movie. I preferred Tan’s first book to her later ones.

    I argued a lot with my mom growing up. The dumbest fight might have been over not putting my elbows on the table, leading me to forfeit dinner, but my mom also gave me a monthly book allowance and art supplies so she was a good mom.

    • Words For Worms

      Elbows on the table, huh? I’ve heard that even Miss Manners is okay with elbows, as long as there’s no shoveling of food. I think most moms end up doing a lot better job than they think… And most teenagers realize that their parents were pretty great- once they’re no longer teenagers!

  9. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I read Tan’s book The Bonesetter’s Daughter, which sounds like it has very similar mother/daughter themes.

    I really didn’t fight with my mom much as a teen. I was more the sullen, brooding type 😛 OH, but probably the most frequent arguments were about church and how I didn’t want to go.

  10. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I read this in school years ago, and I remember having to do quite a bit of flipping back and forth to remember which parent went with which daughter. But yeah, it was still a very very good book!

    I didn’t fight with my mother that much. Still true. I dunno, she was always pretty reasonable and I was always pretty much a goody-goody. :p

  11. Sarah Says Read

    Oh good lord, I was such an annoying, angsty teen I can’t even remember the dumbest fight. Maybe about wanting to go to a dance? Or not wanting to watch my siblings? Ugh. I hate teenagers.

    • Words For Worms

      Isn’t it a pretty cover? I think you’d like this one, knowing that you and I typically like the same type of “feelingsy” books. Yes, I just made up a word. I think it works though.

  12. Aarti

    I read this book years ago when someone gave it to me as a gift. I also watched the movie. I don’t remember it very well, but I DO remember Amy Tan was a guest on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me and it seems like her relationship with her mom was all kinds of crazy. Great fodder for a book!

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