Tan, Amy (Contemporary Literary Criticism)
Amy Tan 1952–
(Full name Amy Ruth Tan) Chinese American novelist.
The following entry presents an overview of Tan's career through 1996.
Amy Tan gained immediate popularity and garnered high praise from critics with her first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989). The novel explores the unique situation of the Asian-American immigrant, but has universal appeal in its expression of the conflict inherent in mother-daughter relationships. Tan's next two novels were also both popular and highly acclaimed.
Tan's father, John Tan, an engineer and Baptist minister, immigrated to the United States from China in 1947. Her mother, Daisy, came to the United States from China in 1949, leaving behind three daughters from a previous marriage. Tan was born in Oakland, California, in 1952, and given the Chinese name En-Mai (Blessing of America). Throughout her childhood, Tan's mother told her stories about her Chinese heritage, and she uses these stories in her fiction to emphasize the importance of the act of storytelling. Tan lost both her older brother Peter and her father to brain cancer in the late 1960s. After their deaths, her mother decided to move the rest of the family to Europe in order to escape what she felt to be the evil of their diseased house in California. Tan rebelled while in Europe and was arrested when only sixteen years old. When her family returned to the United States, she entered Linfield College in Oregon, where she intended to study medicine, but decided to pursue a degree in English. Tan transferred to San Jose State University, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in 1973. In 1974 she married Lou DiMattei and received her master's degree in English and linguistics. Tan enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of California Berkeley, but withdrew from the program in 1976 after the murder of her best friend. From 1976 to 1981 she worked as a language-development specialist for disabled children. She edited a medical journal and worked as a technical writer during the 1980s. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, brought her instant acclaim and rose quickly on the New York Times best-seller list. She followed her initial success with a second critically acclaimed novel, The Kitchen God's Wife (1991).
Through sixteen interconnected stories told by four immigrants from China and their four American-born daughters, The Joy Luck Club illuminates the nature of mother-daughter relationships in both cultures. The theme of Tan's novel focuses on the impact of past generations on the present. The structure, in which the daughters' eight stories are enveloped by those of the mothers, implies that the older generation may hold a key to resolving the problems of the young. The Kitchen God's Wife again tackles mother-daughter relationships, but this time Tan limits herself to one family and the relationship between Winnie Louie and her daughter Pearl. The relationship between Winnie Louie and Pearl is strained because of the secrets they keep from each other. It is only when they reveal their secrets that they establish a connection. The Moon Lady (1992) is a children's story based on an episode from The Joy Luck Club which is derived from a Chinese legend. In The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), Tan focuses on the relationship between two sisters: Olivia, an American-born daughter of a Chinese father, and Kwan; her older Chinese-born sister from her father's previous marriage. The conflict in this novel arises from Kwan's mystical belief in ghosts and previous lives and Olivia's pragmatic attachment to the concrete and the real.
Praising Tan's storytelling abilities, commentators note that the chapters of The Joy Luck Club could stand on their own as short stories. Merle Rubin asserted, "Each story is a gem, complete in itself. Yet each is further enhanced by its relationship (direct or indirect) with the others." Tan is often compared to Maxine Hong Kingston in her presentation of the Asian immigrant's experience in America. Criticism leveled against Tan includes the implausibility of The Hundred Secret Senses, particularly the physical evidence of Kwan's previous life; and reviewers question the authenticity of Tan's descriptions of Chinese life in her novels, even though others cite her particularization of Chinese culture as one of her greatest talents. Helen Yglesias stated that "it is through vivid minutiae that Tan more often exercises her particular charm." Reviewers consistently laud Tan's gift as a story teller and the compelling nature of her narratives. Elgy Gillespie stated, "Once again I found myself reading Amy Tan all night, unable to put the story down until I knew what happened in the end, sniffling when I got to the sad bits … and finally going to sleep at dawn with the conviction that Tan had provided an education for the heart."
The Joy Luck Club (novel) 1989
The Kitchen God's Wife (novel) 1991
The Moon Lady (children's literature) 1992
The Joy Luck Club [with Ronald Bass] (screenplay) 1993
The Chinese Siamese Cat (children's literature) 1994
The Hundred Secret Senses (novel) 1995
(The entire section is 34 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "Chinese-American 'Bridge' Club," in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 81, No. 102, April 21, 1989, p. 13.
[In the following review, Rubin asserts, "In Tan's hands, these linked stories [of The Joy Luck Club]—diverse as they are—fit almost magically into a powerfully coherent novel."]
Amy Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club, is a touching, funny, sad, insightful, and artfully constructed group portrait of four mother-daughter relationships that endure not only a generation gap, but the more unbridgeable gap between two cultures.
The Joy Luck Club is an informal "institution" started by Suyuan Woo upon her arrival in San Francisco in 1949. Suyuan finds three other Chinese immigrant women to play mah jongg, cook and consume special foods, tell stories, gossip, invest in stocks, and plan for joy and luck. In the years that follow, the club links the four families, enabling them to pool resources and keeping them in touch with their past as they take on the challenges of adjusting to a new country.
Nearly 40 years after the first meeting, as the novel opens, Suyuan Woo has died and her place at the mah jongg table is assumed by her 36-year-old daughter, Jing-mei. Like many another American-born child of immigrants, Jing-mei has little understanding of her mother's values or the world that shaped them, although recently, the general interest in...
(The entire section is 796 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "Your Mother is in Your Bones," in Belles Lettres, Vol. 4, No. 4, Summer, 1989, p. 12.
[In the following review, Cheng praises Tan's The Joy Luck Club for its accessibility and vision.]
With clarity of voice and lucidity of vision, Amy Tan's delightful first novel, The Joy Luck Club, reveals to us that for all life's contradictions and tragedies, the true path of existence is convergence.
This is a hard faith to hold when modern life seems so cacophonous, so divisive. But it is key for immigrants to this country who must try to adjust to the new world without being swallowed up by it, who must raise children whose first impulse is to reject their cultural heritage. The frustration is especially deep for those immigrants cut off from their homeland, as were the Chinese who fled from the extremist politics and social upheaval of postwar China.
Tan's book revolves around four such immigrant women and their daughters, each chapter unfolding in the first-person voice of one of them. Some begin their tale far back in China, a world of traditions both suffocating and embracing; some start here in the United States, where the plethora of choices sometimes leads to making the wrong one. All are beautifully interwoven with legend and memory, archetype and longing. Like Maxine Hong Kingston's brilliant The Woman Warrior, published more than a decade...
(The entire section is 851 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "Pangs of an Abandoned Child," in New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1991, p. 9.
[In the following review, Forman Dew points out a few problems with Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife, but concludes that the novel is "in the end, greatly satisfying."]
Within the peculiar construction of Amy Tan's second novel is a harrowing, compelling and at times bitterly humorous tale in which an entire world unfolds in a Tolstoyan tide of event and detail. No doubt it was daunting to attempt a second book in the wake of the enormous success of The Joy Luck Club, but none of Ms. Tan's fans will be disappointed. The Kitchen God's Wife is a more ambitious effort and, in the end, greatly satisfying.
The novel gets off to a slow start, but Ms. Tan eventually relates the story of Jiang Weili (Weiwei) from the time she was 6 years old in the China of 1925 through the present, in which she is Winnie Louie, the widowed matriarch of an extended Chinese family living in San Francisco. It is unfortunate that we first encounter her through the eyes of her 40-year-old daughter, Pearl, because Winnie seems disappointingly stereotypical. She is full of dour aphorisms, is preternaturally cranky and so intrusive that Pearl has kept secret for seven years the fact that she is afflicted with multiple sclerosis.
Perhaps it is Ms. Tan's intention to present us with a formulaic...
(The entire section is 1105 words.)
SOURCE: "Amy, Angst, and the Second Novel," in San Francisco Review of Books, Vol. 16, No. 1, Summer, 1991, pp. 33-4.
[In the following review, Gillespie discusses the problem of a second novel and asserts that Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife is both different from her first novel and successful in its own right.]
Granted, she has her reasons. When Amy Tan wrote amusingly and tellingly about "Angst and the Second Novel" in a recent Publishers Weekly, she was so sympatico about the frightening game of fiction that it seemed unfair to those who usually call the shots around here: the reviewers. In essence, our Amy defanged all her potential critics, silencing us with the sheer weight of her apprehension, guilt-tripping them in advance.
The Second Novel, she said, is always compared to the first, specially if the first was an unexpected runaway success; and the First Hit Novel is the curse from which few best-selling authors can ever recover: "It's like the kid brother sticking his tongue out going nyah-nyah-nyah." And critics are always worse when the First Novel was really big—like Tan's best-selling The Joy Luck Club.
"With the first," Tan continues, "they put you on this great big pedestal. But by the time The Second Book comes around, you realize you're not sitting on a pedestal at all. It's one of those collapsible chairs above a tank of...
(The entire section is 1551 words.)
SOURCE: "Luck Dispensers," in London Review of Books, Vol. 13, No. 13, July 11, 1991, p. 19.
[In the following review, Fitzgerald states that it is the attitude of the older generation that distinguishes Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife.]
Amy Tan was born in San Francisco soon after her parents emigrated from Communist China. A few years ago she joined a Writers' Circle, which told her, as Writers' Circles always do, to write what she had seen herself. She wrote about what she had seen herself and what she hadn't—her own experience and her mother's. She produced a long, complex and seductive narrative, The Joy Luck Club, which was one of the best-sellers of 1989. The Joy Luck Club itself is a group of young wives, stuck in Kweilin during the Japanese invasion, who keep up their spirits by playing mah jong with paper money which has become worthless. All four of them escape to California, and one of them, as an old woman, wants to tell her Americanised daughter, who has 'swallowed more Coca Colas than sorrows', what happened to them, then and afterwards. But the story at best will be no more than a fragment of the whole memory—like a single feather from a swan that has flown.
In The Kitchen God's Wife Amy Tan returns to more or less the same material, seen in a more comic but at the same time a sadder light. The Kitchen God, surely one of the most irritating minor deities...
(The entire section is 1321 words.)
SOURCE: "The Second Time Around," in Women's Review of Books, Vol. VIII, No. 12, September, 1991, pp. 1, 3.
[In the following review, Yglesias delineates the reasons that Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife may surpass the success of her The Joy Luck Club.]
Amy Tan is an immensely popular writer. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was a knockout success, and her second is well on its way to equal, if not surpass, it. The readers who loved the first will surely love the second, since both tell the same story—and this time around Tan has executed the work better in conception, in design, in detail and in sheer pleasure for the reader.
If this sounds like criticism in the guise of praise, it is not. Amy Tan commands an intriguing style which, along with her highly special subject matter, makes for a unique contribution to contemporary writing. The Joy Luck Club introduced her as a young novelist; more or less inevitably, what she had to say was not entirely successfully done the first time. It is to our advantage that she returned to her powerful material for another try.
Amy Tan herself comments that things Chinese are fashionable these days, and some part of her extraordinary success is due to its chic aspect, if only in the most surface way. (Note The New Yorker's recent two-part article on Chinatown, much of whose opening up of this closed...
(The entire section is 1964 words.)
SOURCE: "Amy Tan Redux," in Belles Lettres, Vol. 7, No. 1, Fall, 1991, pp. 15, 19.
[In the following review, Cheng lauds Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife stating, "The ending, with its extraordinary convergence of all that has gone on before, is a marvel."]
Yes, it's true: Amy Tan has done it again—with searing clarity of vision she has spun a tale that lyrically weaves past and present, myth and memory. And she has written a true novel this time, one sustained story that lasts all of some four hundred pages.
For the many who read her first book, The Joy Luck Club, the second opens on familiar territory—Pearl is the grown daughter of a very Chinese mother, Winnie, who speaks English with the snappy cadence and salty metaphors of her native tongue and whose way of thinking—of linking the visible and the invisible worlds—has come with her across the Pacific to the San Francisco Bay Area.
While Winnie still lives in Chinatown, Pearl is living fifty miles outside the city with a Caucasian husband and two Americanized little girls. They come together for a cousin's engagement dinner and for an aunt's funeral. Each has been guarding a secret: Pearl has multiple sclerosis; Winnie a checkered past she tried to leave behind in China.
But meddlesome Aunt Helen takes it on herself to set the record straight. When she nags Pearl to reveal her...
(The entire section is 928 words.)
SOURCE: "Generational Differences and the Diaspora in The Joy Luck Club," in Critique, Spring, 1993, pp. 193-99.
[In the following essay, Shear analyzes the mother-daughter relationship in Tan's The Joy Luck Club.]
Orville Schell's review of The Joy Luck Club for the New York Times emphasizes that those millions of Chinese who were part of the diaspora of World War II and the fighting that resulted in the triumph of the Communists were subsequently cut off from the mainland and after 1949 left to fend for themselves culturally. Though Schell is struck by the way this book renders the vulnerability of these Chinese women in America, the novel's structure in fact succeeds in manifesting not merely the individual psychic tragedies of those caught up in this history, but the enormous agony of a culture enmeshed in a transforming crisis. What each person's story conveys is the terror of a vulnerable human consciousness torn and rent in a culture's contortions; and although, like other Chinese-American books, this novel articulates "the urge to find a usable past," it is made up of a series of intense encounters in a kind of cultural lost and found.
The structure that presents this two-fold impression recalls works such as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, and William Faulkner's The Unvanquished, books that feature...
(The entire section is 3331 words.)
SOURCE: "'Only Two Kinds of Daughters': Inter-Monologue Dialogicity in The Joy Luck Club," in MELUS, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer, 1994, pp. 99-124.
[In the following essay, Souris applies Wolfgang Iser's theory concerning multiple-narrator novels to Tan's The Joy Luck Club.]
Amy Tan has said that she never intended The Joy Luck Club to be a novel. Instead, she thought of it as a collection of stories. But she did plan on having the stories cohere around a central theme, and she did plan the prefaces from the start, although they were written last. More importantly, her collection of first-person monologues participates in and contributes to a tradition of multiple monologue narratives. Since the precedent-setting experiments of Woolf and Faulkner—The Waves, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!—a number of interesting novels written in the decentered, multiple monologue mode have been published. Louise Erdrich's Tracks, Peter Matthiessen's Killing Mister Watson, Louis Auchincloss's The House of the Prophet, and Kaye Gibbons's A Virtuous Woman are just a few of the contemporary examples of this compelling genre.
Because of its decentered, multi-perspectival form, The Joy Luck Club invites analysis from critical perspectives that theorize and valorize fragmented, discontinuous texts and the possibilities of...
(The entire section is 9624 words.)
SOURCE: "Patriarchy, Imperialism, and Knowledge in The Kitchen God's Wife," in North Dakota Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4, Fall, 1994–1995, pp. 164-74.
[In the following essay, Caesar states, "By making us question the validity of American knowledge and the 'otherness' of what Americans consider foreign [in The Kitchen God's Wife], Amy Tan has helped to enlarge the American narrative."]
If, as Jean-Francois Lyotard says, a "master narrative" is required to legitimate artistic expression, for the past thirty years the legitimizing narrative of mainstream American literary realism has been the quest for personal fulfillment. The increasingly stagnant, if not outright polluted, mainstream has produced novel after novel concerning the mid-life crises (and sometimes accompanying marital infidelities) of self-centered American men, with even the once rich Jewish and Southern literary traditions now given over to novels like Bernard Malamud's Dubin's Lives, Walker Percy's The Second Coming, and Reynolds Price's Blue Calhoun, all concerning a middle-aged (and in the first two instances, wealthy) white man's discontent. All are a far cry from the writers' earlier ethical and philosophical concerns. The consideration of the reflective person's stance toward questions of political and social justice, central to the 19th- and early 20th-century novel from Charles Dickens' Bleak...
(The entire section is 4544 words.)
SOURCE: "Mother/Daughter Dialog(ic)s in, around and about Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club," in Private Voices, Public Lives: Women Speak on the Literary Life, edited by Nancy Owen Nelson, University of North Texas Press, 1995, pp. 111-24.
[In the following excerpt, Braendlin analyzes how the women's liberation movement has affected mother-daughter relationships, specifically focusing on the mother-daughter dialogics in Tan's The Joy Luck Club.]
In the 1970s I became, almost simultaneously, a feminist teacher/critic and the mother of a daughter. While analyzing novels emerging from the Women's Liberation Movement, where daughters struggle to free themselves from enslaving ideologies of wife/motherhood, I tended to identify with the daughters and to deplore the maternal machinations of fictional mothers, often characterized as little more than co-opted wives in cahoots with domineering fathers to coerce rebellious daughters into traditional wife/mother roles. As a mother of a daughter in an era when feminism was demanding a place for women in male-dominated culture, I often felt the conflicts among my perceived duty to socialize her toward survival and success in a masculine world, my determination not to replicate my own mother, and my desire to be my own woman and to let my daughter be hers. And just as often my daughter seemed caught between her need for parental direction and her desire for...
(The entire section is 2115 words.)
SOURCE: "Born of a Stranger: Mother-Daughter Relationships and Storytelling in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club," in International Women's Writing: New Landscapes of Identity, edited by Anne E. Brown and Marjanne Goozé, Greenwood Press, 1995, pp. 233-44.
[In the following essay, Shen discusses the importance of storytelling to the mother-daughter bond in Tan's The Joy Luck Club.]
Amy Tan's first work, The Joy Luck Club, is a challenge to the novel as a "narrative paradigm" in several ways: form, narrative structure, and narrative techniques. It is not a novel in the sense that only one story, "his story" is presented; it is a work of sixteen "her stories." The stories are "presented" not by one single third-person narrator either from her particular perspective or from the various "points of view" of the characters. These are narrative techniques conventionally associated with the novel of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book is divided into four main sections; the stories are told from the viewpoints of four Chinese mothers and their Chinese American daughters. The only exception is Suyuan Woo, who, having recently died, speaks not for herself but through her daughter, Jing-mei. The daughter tells her mother's stories as she takes her mother's place at the mahjong table and on the fateful trip to China. The stories, "told" by the three mothers and four daughters at different times...
(The entire section is 5776 words.)
SOURCE: "'Sugar Sisterhood': Situating the Amy Tan Phenomenon," in The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions, edited by David Palumbo-Liu, University of Minnesota Press, 1995, pp. 174-210.
[In the following essay, Wong analyzes the anthropological aspects of Tan's novels The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife and their place in literary tradition.]
The sensational success of Amy Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club, is the stuff of publishing legend. Before the shrewd eye of agent Sandra Dijkstra spotted a potential winner, Tan was entirely unknown to the literary world. But lavish advance praise—the dust jacket of the hardcover edition bears enthusiastic blurbs by Alice Walker, Alice Hoffman, and Louise Erdrich—and postpublication rave reviews instantly propelled The Joy Luck Club onto the New York Times best-seller list, where it stayed for nine months. The hardcover edition was reprinted twenty-seven times and sold 275,000 copies; frenzied bidding by corporate publishers pushed the price for paperback rights from a floor of $100,000 to an astonishing $1.2 million. The Joy Luck Club was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a recipient of the 1990 Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for Fiction.
Tan's second novel, The Kitchen God's Wife, has not duplicated Joy...
(The entire section is 11832 words.)
SOURCE: "Ghost Story," in New York Times Book Review, October 29, 1995, p. 11.
[In the following review, Messud praises the characterization of Kwan in Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses, but says that the novel fails to convince.]
The tremendous success of Amy Tan's two previous novels, The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, lay in her capacity to evoke, vividly and with subtle humor, the cultural dislocation of America's Chinese community. She has conjured the tortuous lives of an older generation of women whose fate brought them from China to this country, as well as the frustration and fascination of their American-born daughters. It is not surprising, then, that in her latest book, The Hundred Secret Senses, she should offer an apparent reworking of this theme.
However, rather than focusing again on the mother-daughter bond, Ms. Tan has shifted her attention slightly, choosing this time an exploration of sisterhood. Olivia Bishop, a commercial photographer, is the novel's primary narrator. She is the child of an irresponsible American mother and a Chinese father who died when Olivia was almost 4. Kwan, her half sister, is 12 years her senior, the product of their father's first marriage in China; she appeared in Olivia's life when Olivia was still a small child. Theirs is not, from the younger sister's perspective, an easy relationship: Kwan is...
(The entire section is 874 words.)
SOURCE: "Sisterly Bonds," in Chicago Tribune Books, November 5, 1995, pp. 1, 11.
[In the following review, Mesic praises Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses stating, "She provides what is most irresistible in popular fiction: a feeling of abundance, an account so circumstantial, powerful and ingenious that it seems the story could go on forever."]
Down in Birmingham, Alabama, under a sign that says Ollie's, there's a circular stainless-steel structure like a just-landed flying saucer. It seats 400 and is always full. Only two things are served there, barbecue and pie. Clearly, Ollie, whoever he was, realized that no third thing could ever be as good and quit while he was ahead. It may seem that this has nothing to do with Amy Tan's latest novel, The Hundred Secret Senses, which is about two Chinese half-sisters, but there is a marked similarity. The novel is like Ollie's in combining three qualities almost never found together: popularity, authenticity and excellence. And like that wonderful restaurant, this book is going to pull a crowd that includes both sophisticates and the simple-hearted, not by being bland but by offering sharp flavors—the prose equivalent of vinegar, pepper and wood smoke.
Tan's novel shows us a pair of women whose peculiarities, whose resentments, whose tactless truth telling, odd beliefs, jokes and quirks and annoyances, give them a pretty much...
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The Hundred Secret Senses, in Maclean's, Vol. 108, No. 45, November 6, 1995, p. 85.
[In the following review, Nurse asserts, "Kwan's dreams comprise the most skillfully realized sections of [The Hundred Secret Senses], mingling elements of gothic romance and folktale with historical chronicle."]
In Amy Tan's earlier novels, The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, individual personal histories powerfully influence future family dynamics. Even though traditional Chinese superstitions about luck and fate shape both stories, neither work strays far from the realistic mode. In Tan's latest novel, however, ghosts replace memories as the link between past and present. With The Hundred Secret Senses, Tan ventures into the realm of spirits and reincarnation through her favorite character type: a Chinese-American woman who is ill at ease with her racial makeup. Olivia Bishop, a 38-year-old commercial photographer, feels that her life is devoid of meaningful ties. She still longs for the attention of a neglectful mother who was too busy seeking husbands to meet her daughter's needs. Olivia has recently separated from her husband, Simon Bishop, with whom she shares a small freelance business, and whom she accuses of providing her with nothing but "emotional scraps."
Olivia was born to a Chinese father and an American mother. She has spent...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
SOURCE: "Voice, Mind, Self: Mother-Daughter Relationships in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife," in Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in 20th-Century Literature, edited by Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, University of Texas Press, 1996, pp. 208-27.
[In the following essay, Booth Foster discusses the importance of daughters listening to their mothers' voices in order to discover their own voices in Tan's The Joy Luck Club.]
In The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, Amy Tan uses stories from her own history and myth to explore the voices of mothers and daughters of Chinese ancestry. Each woman tells a story indicative of the uniqueness of her voice. Mary Field Belensky, in Women's Ways of Knowing, argues that voice is "more than an academic shorthand for a person's point of view … it is a metaphor that can apply to many aspects of women's experience and development…. Women repeatedly used the metaphor of voice to depict their intellectual and ethical development;… the development of a sense of voice, mind, and self were intricately intertwined." In Tan's fiction, the daughters' sense of self is intricately linked to an ability to speak and be heard by their mothers. Similarly, the mothers experience growth as they broaden communication lines with their daughters. Tan's women are very much like the women Belensky portrays in...
(The entire section is 8064 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The Hundred Secret Senses, in New Statesman & Society, Vol. 9, No. 390, p. 38.
[In the following review, Pavey considers Tan's unifying device in The Hundred Secret Senses unconvincing, but asserts that, "this does not detract from the great appeal of her character, Kwan (who combines saintly good humour with wit, practicality and guile), or the enjoyable liveliness of her style."]
Kwan, the co-heroine of The Hundred Secret Senses, has yin eyes, second sight. At least she thinks she has, which is why she talks of relating to ghosts as an everyday experience. There is nothing fey about Kwan. Having spent the first 18 years of her life in rural China, she takes uncomplainingly to being uprooted to join her dead father's new family in San Francisco. But how is her much younger half-sister to accommodate Kwan's hotline to the past? From the first sentence of this novel, Amy Tan sets up a tension between Kwan's Chinese-born certainties and the distancing ironies of Olivia's San Francisco inheritance.
To begin with, Olivia, or Libby-ah, has a firm grip on the narration, which begins when she is already well over 30 and married to Simon. There seems little chance of her, or the reader, getting caught by Kwan's fancies. It is not long, however, before Kwan muscles in. She takes us back to a former life, in 1864, when she was a servant to an English...
(The entire section is 578 words.)
Greenlaw, Lavinia. A review of The Hundred Secret Senses, in Times Literary Supplement 4846 (16 February 1996): 22.
A review in which Greenlaw concludes that "The Hundred Secret Senses is fast-paced but ultimately aimless."
Houston, Marsha. "Women and the Language of Race and Ethnicity." Women and Language XVIII, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 1-7.
Houston traces the importance of multiple languages in Tan's The Joy Luck Club and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior.
(The entire section is 127 words.)