Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Amy Tan (given the Chinese name of An-Mei, or “Blessing from America”) was the second of three children born to Chinese immigrants John and Daisy Tan. Her father, educated as an electrical engineer in Beijing, became a Baptist minister. Daisy, child of a privileged family, was forced to leave behind three daughters from a previous marriage when she fled Communist troops.
Tan’s older brother died in 1967 and her father six months later, both of brain tumors. This began a troubled time for her. At fifteen, she moved to Europe with her mother and younger brother, was arrested for drugs in Switzerland at sixteen, and nearly eloped to Austria with a German army deserter.
Daisy Tan wanted her daughter to be a neurosurgeon and a concert pianist, but Tan felt she could not live up to her mother’s expectations. Although her test scores were highest in math and science, she left premedical studies to become an English major. In 1974, she earned a master’s degree in linguistics from San Jose State University and married tax attorney Lou DeMattei. She began doctoral studies at the University of California at Berkeley but, after a close friend and roommate was murdered, she dropped out to become a consultant to programs for disabled children. Later she served as reporter, editor, and publisher for Emergency Room Reports.
Tan became a freelance business writer in 1983. She wrote sales manuals and proposals for such firms as American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), International Business Machines (IBM), and Apple, and by 1985 was working up to ninety hours a week. Her business writing paid well, and she could choose her projects, but, she has said, “It was death to me spiritually. It was writing that had no meaning to me.”
She sought therapy, but Tan was discouraged when her psychiatrist fell asleep during her sessions. Instead, she decided to cut her work week to fifty hours, study jazz piano, and write fiction in her spare time. She had just...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Tan’s books, which have been published in more than twenty-five languages, are chiefly concerned with the troubled relationships and the conflicts of love between mothers and daughters who are separated by different cultures as well as by generations. She also covers a wide spectrum of lives and customs of Chinese women up until the postwar Cultural Revolution, and she examines the concepts of fate, luck, and choice. Although Tan does not consider herself a spokeswoman for Chinese Americans, her writing has awakened further interest in the Chinese American perspective in American literature.
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Amy Ruth Tan was born in Oakland, California, on February 19, 1952, the middle child (and only daughter) of John Yuehhan and Daisy Tu Ching Tan, who had emigrated from China. Her father was an electrical engineer in China, but he became a minister in the United States. The family moved frequently, finally settling in Santa Clara, California. After the death of her husband and older son when Amy was fifteen years old, Daisy took the family to Switzerland and enrolled her children in schools there, but she returned to California in 1969.
Tan’s parents hoped she would become a physician and concert pianist. She began a premedical course of study but switched to English and linguistics, much to her mother’s dismay. She received her B.A. in 1973 and her M.A. in 1974 from San Jose State University. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, from 1974 to 1976, beginning studies toward a doctorate. In 1974, she married Louis M. DeMattei, a tax attorney; they settled in San Francisco.
Tan was a language consultant, a reporter, a managing editor, and a freelance technical writer before she turned to fiction writing. She joined a writing workshop in 1985 and submitted a story about a Chinese American chess prodigy. The revised version was first published in a small literary magazine and reprinted in Seventeen magazine as “Rules of the Game.” When Tan learned that the story had appeared in Italy and had been translated without her knowledge, she obtained an agent, Sandra Dijkstra, to help handle publication. Although Tan had written only three stories at that time, Dijkstra encouraged her to write a book. At her suggestion, Tan submitted an outline for a book of stories and then went on a trip to China with her mother. On her return, she learned that her proposal had been accepted by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Amy Ruth Tan was born to Daisy and John Tan, both of whom had emigrated—separately—from China to the United States in the late 1940’s. They had met some years earlier but were separated by two things: Daisy was still married to her first husband, and John left for the United States, where he intended to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fate intervened—Daisy was divorced from her abusive husband, and John sent for her. They were married in California and had three children; Amy was the middle child. Acutely conscious that she was different from her classmates, Tan recalls pinching her nose with a clothespin in an effort to reshape that appendage to look more Caucasian. Like her Asian American peers, Tan was American at school and Chinese at home. Although her mother spoke to her in Chinese, Tan responded in English. The tensions and conflicts produced by her dual heritage eventually found their way into her fiction, which often portrays the generational conflicts in immigrant families.
At fifteen, Tan lost first her older brother and then her father; both died of brain tumors within months of each other. Her mother reacted by leaving California with the remaining children, moving first to the East Coast and then to the Netherlands and Germany, and finally to Switzerland, where Tan graduated from high school.
After returning to the United States, Tan attended several colleges before earning degrees in English and...
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Amy Tan was born to parents who immigrated from China to California two years before she was born, and her work is influenced by the Asian American people and community she knew in her childhood. Each of her novels features characters who have either immigrated from China or who, like Tan, are the children of those immigrants. Like many immigrants to the United States, Tan’s parents had high expectations for their daughter. Tan writes: “I was led to believe from the age of six that I would grow up to be a neurosurgeon by trade and a concert pianist by hobby.” In her first two novels, especially, Tan writes of the pressures her young Chinese American characters feel as they try to meet high parental expectations while also craving a normal carefree childhood.
Tan did not initially plan to be a writer of fiction. She was working long hours as a technical writer, and sought psychological therapy to help her with her workaholic tendencies. When she became dissatisfied with her therapist, who sometimes fell asleep during her sessions, she decided to use fiction writing as her therapy instead.
Tan struggled with her Chinese heritage; as a girl, she contemplated cosmetic surgery to make her look less Asian. She was ashamed of her cultural identity until she moved with her mother and brother to Switzerland, where Tan attended high school. There, Asians were a rarity, and Tan was asked out on dates because she was suddenly exotic.
Experiences from her life find their way into her novels, especially The Joy Luck Club. As do the characters Rose Hsu and Waverly Jong, Tan experienced the death of a brother. Waverly, like Tan, is married to a tax attorney of European descent. Tan and her husband, Lou DeMattei, married in 1974. In fact, several of Tan’s Chinese American women characters are married to European American husbands.
Amy Tan’s novels have all been acclaimed by critics as well-crafted works of fiction and as keyholes through which the reader can peer into a culture that has seldom been explored in American literature.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Amy Ruth Tan was born February 19, 1952, in Oakland, California, to John Tan, a minister and electrical engineer, and Daisy Chan (formerly Tu Ching), a vocational nurse. (Her mother was also a member of a club like the one depicted in Tan’s first novel, The Joy Luck Club). Her parents had moved to the United States from China three years before she was born. When Tan was fifteen, her father and one of her brothers died; her mother took her and her younger brother to Switzerland, where Tan finished high school. Later the family returned to the United States, and Tan attended and graduated from San Jose State University. She married tax attorney Lou DeMattei.
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IntroductionBorn in 1952 to Chinese immigrant parents, Amy Tan grew up in Northern California. Tan’s mother (the subject of her second novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife) suffered at the hands of a brutal husband whom she eventually divorced. Sadly, she was forced to leave her three daughters behind in China. Tan and her siblings were from her mother’s second marriage in the States. Tan’s first book, The Joy Luck Club, was a phenomenal critical and popular success. In most of her works, she deals unflinchingly with the dynamics of mother/daughter relationships, finding a way to respect the past but live in the present, and to retain a sense of identity for her characters as they attempt to balance the yin and the yang of their Chinese and American selves.
- Defying her mother’s wishes, Tan left the premedical program she had been enrolled in and switched her major to English and linguistics. She graduated with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from San Jose State University in 1974.
- Although she enrolled in a doctoral program, Tan decided to take a job working with mentally challenged children in Alameda, California. She also developed a program for developmentally disabled children during this time.
- Before permanently turning to fiction writing, Amy Tan tried her hand at technical writing.
- When her mother fell ill and seemed near death, Tan promised that she would take her to China to find the daughters her mother was forced to abandon decades earlier. They were reunited, and Tan credits this meeting with helping her see her mother in a new light.
- Amy Tan is a musician in a band called The Rock Bottom Remainders (“remainders” are the books that do not sell and become clearance bin fodder). The other members of the band include humorist Dave Barry, authors Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening.