Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club Summary

Overview

The Joy Luck Club

Summary of the Novel
The novel contains four sections, each beginning with a vignette depicting a stage in the life cycle. The four stories in each section explore the relationship between the mothers and the daughters at the same stage.

One series of stories focuses on Suyuan Woo, who comes to America in 1947, having lost her family, including twin daughters, during war. She does not know her daughters were rescued. Now remarried, she settles in San Francisco, has a daughter, Jing-mei (June), and starts a Joy Luck Club similar to one in China with three other women. The four form strong friendships.

As she grows up, Jing-mei and her mother struggle to understand one another. They never completely resolve their differences, and Suyuan dies unexpectedly. At the next meeting of the Joy Luck Club, her mother’s friends tell Jing-mei that Suyuan’s twin daughters have been found. They give her a check so she can visit them. As the novel ends, she meets her sisters in Shanghai.

A second set of stories focuses on An-mei, who lives with her grandmother because her mother has been disowned. When An-mei is nine, her grandmother dies; and An-mei leaves with her mother to live in the home of a wealthy man and his other wives. An-mei learns how her mother was forced into a dishonorable second marriage and why she has no control over her own life. Her mother’s subsequent suicide provides An-mei a better life.

As an adult An-mei comes to San Francisco. She and her husband have seven children, including Rose. Rose marries Ted, a dermatologist, who has an affair and divorces her. Rose is overwhelmed but recovers.

The third series of stories focuses on Lindo. She marries Tyan-yu, but he never sleeps with her. Unable to tell her domineering mother-in-law the truth, she devises a clever plan and is released from her marriage honorably. She comes to San Francisco and marries Tin Jong. They have three children—Winston, Vincent, and Waverly.

Waverly is a child chess prodigy. She and her mother maneuver through their differences throughout her childhood and into adulthood. Their differences climax over Waverly’s fiancé, Rich Schields, and the
two women reconcile.

The fourth series of stories focuses on Ying-ying. Born into a wealthy family, she is a spirited child who nearly drowns when she is four. She grows into a haughty young woman and marries a crude man who abandons her after she becomes pregnant. Ten years later she marries Clifford St. Clair, an American exporter, even though she doesn’t love him. They come to San Francisco and have one daughter, Lena. Their second child is stillborn, and Ying-ying is depressed for months afterward. Her depression affects Lena.

As an adult Lena marries Harold Livotny, who takes advantage of her. Ying-ying feels responsible for raising so powerless a daughter. She wants to encourage Lena to speak up for herself.

Estimated Reading Time
The novel consists of 16 short stories, each requiring 25 to 40 minutes to read, and four vignettes requiring five minutes each to read. The entire novel can be completed in about 10 to 11 hours.

The Life and Work of Amy Tan
Amy Tan’s grandmother, Jing-mei, was widowed when her daughter Daisy was young. She was later forced to marry a wealthy man who had raped her. Since Chinese custom prohibited widows from remarrying, both Jing-mei and Daisy were shunned. Jing-mei eventually committed suicide by eating food with raw opium in it. Daisy later married a man who abused her. She divorced him and came to America, but he forced her to leave their three daughters behind.

In California she met John Tan, an electrical engineer and Baptist minister who had also fled China in the late 1940s. They married soon afterwards. Amy, their second child and only daughter, was born in 1952. Her Chinese name, An-mei, means “gift from America.”

Amy Tan said her parents “wanted us to have American circumstances and Chinese character” (Current Biography, 560). However, in order to assimilate, the children felt forced to choose “American” ways and to refuse “Chinese” things. This led to a deep sense of “shame and self-hate,” Tan said (Current Biography, 560). For example, she once wanted to change her Chinese features so much that she went to bed with a clothespin on her nose every night for a week.

After the deaths of her father and older brother, eight months apart, the family spent a year in Europe. Tan was 16 years old. She finished high school early; when her family returned to America, she began college. There she met Louis DeMattei, her future husband, who is now a tax attorney.

Daisy Tan was unhappy when her daughter not only transferred schools to be with DeMattei, but also changed from pre-med to studying English and linguistics. The two did not speak for about six months. Amy Tan completed both her B.A. and M.A. degrees and was working on a doctorate when she left school to work with retarded and developmentally disabled people. Later she started a successful free-lance nonfiction writing business, partly in response to a supervisor who severely criticized her writing. When she and her husband bought Daisy Tan a place to live, Daisy conceded that perhaps writing was a good career for her daughter.

In 1987 Amy Tan went to China with her mother to meet her half-sisters, whom she did not know about until she was 26 (“Mother With a Past,” 47). Tan said later, “There was something about this country that I belonged to. I found something about myself that I never knew was there” (Current Biography, 561).

Her first short story, “Endgame,” was published in 1985 and was followed by “Waiting Between the Trees.” When she learned that publishers were interested in the outline for The Joy Luck Club, originally titled Wind and Water, she left her free-lance business and finished the novel in four months. It was followed by The Kitchen God’s Wife in 1991 and The Moon Lady, a collaboration with Gretchen Schields, in 1992. She also worked on the movie screenplay of The Joy Luck Club, released in 1993.

The Joy Luck Club Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Joy Luck Club takes its title from a gathering begun in wartime China by Suyuan Woo, who met with three women in a weekly attempt to maintain their sanity and luck. They prepared special foods and played mah-jongg, even though the city was filled with horror. In 1949, in San Francisco, Suyuan resumed the tradition with three new friends.

One critic has suggested that the book is structured like the four corners of the mah-jongg table at which the women sit, with four stories in each of the book’s four sections, and four mother-daughter pairs. In mah-jongg, one critic has noted, “The game starts, always, with the east wind,” and June Woo, whose narrative begins and ends the book, sits on the east side, taking her dead mother’s place. The game ends when one player has a complete hand, and June completes her mother’s life and dearest wish when she returns to China, with a ticket paid for by the Joy Luck Club, to meet the two half sisters her mother was forced to leave behind in her flight.

Recurring motifs link the stories of each mother-daughter pair. The second mother, An-mei Hsu, bears a scar from the spilling of hot soup on her neck as a child, an accident that nearly killed her. She carries a grievous inner scar as well: Her own mother had been banished, her name never spoken. Only later does she understand how her mother dishonored the family by becoming the third concubine of a wealthy married man. Yet when An-mei’s grandmother was dying, her mother returned to cut a piece of flesh from her own arm to make a magic healing broth. “This is how a daughter honors her mother,” An-mei remembers. “It is shou [respect] so deep it is in your bones.”

This same mother poisoned herself, timing her death so that her soul would return on the first day of the lunar new year to settle scores with the rich man and Second Wife, ensuring a better future for her children. Dead, she had more power than ever in life.

Lindo Jong, the daughter of peasants, was betrothed at the age of two to her first husband and became a servant in his mother’s house until their marriage. Although the family nearly convinced her that a daughter belonged to her mother-in-law and that her husband was a god, Lindo discovered herself on her wedding day: “I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me.”

Thus, Lindo’s willful and brilliant American daughter Waverly learns “the art of invisible strength” at six from her mother, who tells her, “Strongest wind cannot be seen.” Waverly becomes a chess prodigy, but her early confidence falters as she tries to outwit the mother she fears. The tension between mother and daughter seems strongest with this pair. Waverly wants to become her own person, but her mother wonders, “How can she be her own person? When did I give her up?”

Little Ying-ying St. Clair, daughter of the wealthiest family in Wushi, celebrated the Moon Festival by falling off an excursion boat at night and never found herself again. After an unfortunate first marriage, she lost her “tiger spirit” and became a listless ghost. Motifs of the dark other self, of dissolution and integration, appear in her stories, yet mother-daughter love forms a stronger bond. Ying-ying’s daughter struggles to rescue her mother’s spirit after the devastating birth of an anacephalic child, and the mother, in turn, tries to give her daughter courage to break free of an empty marriage: “I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter’s tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter.”

In the final section of the book, the mothers connect their past to their daughters’ lives and encourage them to be strong. As a Chinese grandmother tells her baby granddaughter, “You must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope.”

The Joy Luck Club Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan’s first novel, debuted to critical acclaim. It takes its place alongside Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976) as a chronicle of a Chinese American woman’s search for and exploration of her ethnic identity. The Joy Luck Club is the best-selling, accessible account of four Chinese-born mothers and their four American-born daughters. One of the women, Suyuan Woo, has died before the story opens, but the other seven women tell their own stories from their individual points of view. Critics have noted that this approach is an unusually ambitious one. Nevertheless, the novel has reached a wide audience, especially since it was made into a feature film in 1992.

At the center of the story is Jing-mei “June” Woo, who has been asked to replace her dead mother as a member of the Joy Luck Club, a group of four women who meet for food and mah-jongg. Although Americanized and non-Chinese-speaking June is initially uncertain whether she wishes to join her mother’s friends, she discovers that these women know things about her mother’s past that she had never imagined. Her decision to become part of the Joy Luck Club culminates in a visit to China, where she meets the half sisters whom her mother was forced to abandon before she fled to the United States. The other Chinese-born women have similarly tragic stories, involving abandonment, renunciation, and sorrow in their native country. June says of her mother’s decision to begin the club: “My mother could sense that the women of these families also had unspeakable tragedies they had left behind in China and hopes they couldn’t begin to express in their fragile English.” Each of these women’s hopes includes hopes for her daughter. Each American daughter feels that she has in some way disappointed her mother. Waverly Jong fulfills her mother’s ambitions by becoming a chess prodigy, then quits suddenly, to her mother’s sorrow. June can never live up to her mother’s expectations, and rebels by refusing to learn the piano. Rose Hsu turns away for a moment, and her youngest brother drowns. Lena St. Clair makes a marriage based on false ideals of equality, and only her mother understands its basic injustice. These American-born daughters insist that they are not Chinese; as June says, she has no “Chinese whatsoever below my skin.” By the end of the novel, they find themselves realizing how truly Chinese they are.

The Joy Luck Club Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After Suyuan Woo passes away, her daughter, Jing-mei, is asked by her mother’s friends to take her mother’s place as a member of their Joy Luck Club, a group of friends who play Mah-Jongg together. At first, Jing-mei is reluctant to join the club. She is not very good at Mah-Jongg and not particularly interested in hearing her “aunties” talk about the past. Once she accepts, however, she begins to learn more about her mother’s past and about the twin daughters her mother left in China. She also learns about her aunties’ lives and about their daughters.

The aunties describe their childhood experience in China and their journey to the United States. An-mei Hsu recalls how her mother was mistreated by her husband’s family after his death, and how she was disowned by Popo, her mother, for marrying Wu Tsing, who already had a wife and two concubines. When Popo became very sick, An-mei’s mother nevertheless returned home to take care of her. An-mei later learned from a servant, Yan Chang, that her mother had been raped by Wu Tsing and tricked into the marriage, and that she was physically abused and emotionally tortured by Wu Tsing’s wife and concubines.

Lindo Jong was a child bride. Her husband, Tyan-yu, was several years younger than she and even more immature. When Huang Taitai, Tyan-yu’s mother, became angry with Lindo for not bearing the family a son, Lindo told her that from a meeting she had with the ghosts of the family’s ancestors she was warned to leave the family to prevent calamity from descending on them. That trick enabled Lindo to leave Huang Taitai’s house without disgracing her own family. The money Huang Taitai gave her was enough for her to go to America.

Ying-ying St. Clair was born to a well-to-do family, and she was brought up with strict rules about how to behave properly. Both her mother and Amah, the maid, believe that a “girl can never ask, only listen”; while a “boy can run and chase dragonflies, because that is his nature . . . a girl should stand still.” In the legendary figure Chang-o, the Moon Lady, Ying-ying finds a companion and someone she can trust, but after Ying-ying makes a secret wish to Chang-o while watching a play, she is shocked to find out that the person who plays Chang-o is a man.

The aunties’ daughters also tell their stories about the cultural conflicts they experienced growing up in America. Waverly Jong was Chinatown’s chess champion when she was a child, but because she did not like the way her mother bragged about her achievement, she stopped playing. Lately, Waverly was fighting her mother over the way she treats her boyfriend, Rich Shields; it seems that her mother considers neither Rich nor Waverly’s former Chinese husband good enough.

Lena St. Clair is tired of hearing her mother talk about how her marriage with Harold Livotny is unbalanced. She eventually comes to think that her mother was right all along and that she and her husband do not have an equal relationship. Lena is as important as Harold in the architectural firm Livotny and Associates but is not paid accordingly; yet they split the household bills and expenses evenly in half.

In the story “Half and Half,” Rose Hsu Jordan sees a parallel between what happens to her brother Bing and what happens to her marriage. When Rose was a teenager, she was once given the responsibility to take care of her younger brothers while the family was vacationing on a beach. A misunderstanding between Rose and her father results in Bing’s disappearance. From that incident, Rose learns that fate is shaped “half by expectation, half by inattention.” Just as she knows now that she never expects to find Bing, Rose now also knows she will not find a way to save her marriage to Ted Jordan, who not only does not respect her being a housewife but also has an affair with another woman.

Jing-mei Woo is the spokesperson for both her and her mother. When Jing-mei was a child, Suyuan believed that her daughter was a prodigy and hired a piano teacher for her. Jing-mei was not very excited about playing piano, however, and did not practice hard. After a disastrous appearance on a talent show, Jing-mei has a big altercation with her mother, after which she never touches the piano again. After her mother dies, Jing-mei develops a sentimental attachment to the piano, and one day she plays Robert Schumann’s piano pieces “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented” a few times and discovers that they are “two halves of the same song.”

When the aunties give Jing-mei an envelope with twelve hundred dollars and tell her to go to China to meet her twin sisters, she starts to understand the ontological significance of having taken her mother’s place at the Mah-Jongg table—on the East, where things began. In the last story of the book, “A Pair of Tickets,” Jing-mei Woo describes her trip to China in search of her “lost” twin sisters. When she finally meets them, Jing-mei can see that together they look just like their mother.

The Joy Luck Club Summary and Analysis

Feathers from a Thousand Li Away, Vignette Summary and Analysis

Summary
A young woman leaves China to come to America. She brings with her a swan she plans to give to the daughter she will have someday, a daughter whose life will be much better than hers. Once they arrive in America, though, immigration officials take the swan away from her, leaving her only a feather.

As the vignette concludes, the woman has grown old. She has a daughter but has never given her the feather because she wants to be able to explain her “good intentions” in “perfect American English.”

Analysis
This vignette focuses on the mother’s actions when she was young and their effects later. Both the woman and the daughter are archetypes, or patterns, of the...

(The entire section is 354 words.)

The Joy Luck Club Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Jing-mei (June) Woo: narrator of most of this story; age 36, daughter of Suyuan and Canning Woo

Suyuan Woo: narrator of part of the story; Jing-mei’s mother, Canning Woo’s wife, and founder of the Joy Luck Club. She dies two months before the story begins

Canning Woo: Suyuan’s husband; Jing-mei’s father

An-mei Hsu: Suyuan’s friend; one of the members of the Joy Luck Club

George Hsu: An-mei’s husband

Lindo Jong: Suyuan’s “best friend and arch rival”; one of the members of the Joy Luck Club
Ying-ying St. Clair: Suyuan’s friend; one of the members of the Joy Luck Club

Uncle Jack: Ying-ying’s younger brother...

(The entire section is 1067 words.)

Scar Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Popo: An-mei’s maternal grandmother. An-mei and her brother have lived with her the last five years

An-mei’s mother: she is never given a name. Her family has ostracized her because she disgraced them

An-mei’s brother: younger than An-mei

Uncle and Auntie: Popo and the two children live with them in Ningpo, China

Summary
An-mei, now an old woman, narrates this story. As a child, she and her brother live with Popo, Auntie, and Uncle. As Popo grows increasingly ill, she calls An-mei to her bedside and tells her stories with a moral to them. Both Popo and Auntie tell the children that their mother has no respect for the family. An-mei feels...

(The entire section is 864 words.)

The Red Candle Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lindo’s mother: never named

Huang Taitai: Lindo’s mother-in-law, mother of Tyan-yu

Tyan-yu: Lindo’s first husband

The village matchmaker: she arranges both the match and later, the wedding, between Lindo and Tyan-yu

The matchmaker’s servant: her mistake gives Lindo a chance to escape her marriage honorably

Another servant girl: she works for Huang Taitai and is kind to Lindo. When she becomes pregnant, Lindo helps her

Summary
Lindo Jong speaks to her daughter, Waverly, about the importance of keeping promises, comparing them to 24-carat gold. Then she talks about the promise her family made when they arranged...

(The entire section is 1184 words.)

The Moon Lady Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Amah: Ying-ying’s nanny

Chang-o, the Moon Lady: in Chinese tradition, wife of the Master Archer

Hou Yi, the Master Archer: husband of Chang-o, associated with the sun

The Queen Mother of the Western Skies: also called Syi Wang Mu, associated with the yin principle

Mama and Baba: Ying-ying’s parents

Number Two and Number Three: Ying-ying’s younger half sisters

The family on the fishing boat: they rescue Ying-ying

Summary
Ying-ying, the narrator, speaks of her daughter, Lena, who does not hear or see Ying-ying because Ying-ying has kept her “true nature” hidden, “running along like a small shadow...

(The entire section is 1294 words.)

The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates, Vignette Summary and Analysis

Summary
A mother tells her seven-year-old daughter not to ride her bicycle around the corner. When the daughter wants to know why, the mother says the daughter will fall and the mother will not see or hear her. When the daughter asks how her mother knows this will happen, her mother replies that it is written in The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates, as are all the bad things that can happen to children who are away from their mothers. The daughter wants to see the book, but the mother says it is written in Chinese and she will not understand it. The daughter asks what the 26 bad things are in the book, but her mother does not answer; she sits and knits. The daughter repeats the question, and still her mother does not...

(The entire section is 360 words.)

Rules of the Game Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Waverly Jong: Lindo’s only daughter and youngest child; narrator

Vincent and Winston Jong: Lindo’s older brothers

Lao Po: an old man in the park who helps Waverly learn chess

Summary
The adult Waverly looking back on her childhood tells this story. An incident with her mother and some salted plums teaches her “the art of invisible strength,” encapsuled in two sayings: “Bite back your tongue” and “Strongest wind cannot be seen.”

One year at a Christmas celebration at the First Chinese Baptist Church, Vincent gets a used chess set; Waverly selects a box of Life Savers; and Winston receives a kit for a model submarine. Once home,...

(The entire section is 1105 words.)

The Voice from the Wall Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lena St. Clair: Ying-ying’s daughter, 10 years old at the time of this story

Clifford St. Clair: Ying-ying’s husband, Lena’s father

Teresa Sorci and Mrs. Sorci: neighbors in the St. Clairs’ apartment building. Teresa is about 12 years old. Her bedroom is next to Lena’s

Summary
The adult Lena narrates this story. As a child she wondered about “the death of a thousand cuts,” in which a condemned man is sliced away little by little until he dies. Her great-grandfather had once ordered someone to die in this manner, and the ghost of the executed man returned and killed him. “Either that,” she says, “or he died of influenza a week...

(The entire section is 1260 words.)

Half and Half Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Rose Hsu Jordan: narrator of this story, daughter of An-mei and George, wife of Ted Jordan; a free-lance production assistant for graphic artists

Ted Jordan: Rose’s husband, a dermatologist

Mrs. Jordan: Ted’s mother

George Hsu: An-mei’s father

Janice, Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Bing Hsu: Rose’s sisters and brothers

Summary
Rose, the narrator, describes a “white leatherette Bible” her mother uses to prop up one leg of a crooked table. After spending more than 20 years on the floor, it is still “clean white.” As she looks at it, Rose wonders how she will tell An-mei that she and Ted are getting a divorce. She...

(The entire section is 1270 words.)

Two Kinds Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Old Chong: Jing-mei’s deaf piano teacher

Summary
This story is narrated by the adult Jing-mei looking back on her childhood piano lessons.

When Jing-mei is nine, Suyuan wants her to be a prodigy like Lindo’s daughter and Shirley Temple. Jing-mei at first agrees, but after repeatedly failing to find her special talent, she quits trying.

A few months later Suyuan notices a young Chinese girl playing piano on The Ed Sullivan Show. Three days afterward she announces that she has made arrangements for Jing-mei to take piano lessons from Mr. Chong. Jing-mei quickly discovers he can’t tell when she is making mistakes because he is deaf. As long as...

(The entire section is 776 words.)

American Translation, Vignette Summary and Analysis

Summary
The mother insists her adult daughter move the mirrored armoire at the foot of her bed. She says her daughter’s “marriage happiness” will reflect off the mirror and turn to unhappiness. The daughter, annoyed, says there is no other place in the bedroom of the new condominium to put it. It will have to stay where it is.

The mother pulls a mirror, her housewarming present, out of a used Macy’s shopping bag. She tells her daughter to mount this mirror above the head of the bed, across from the other mirror, so the reflections will “multiply your peach-blossom luck.”

When the daughter asks what peach-blossom luck is, the mother only smiles mischievously, tells her to look in the...

(The entire section is 370 words.)

Rice Husband Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Harold Livotny: Lena’s husband, an architect

Arnold Reisman: a neighbor who was mean to Lena when they were children

Summary
Ying-ying is visiting Lena, 36, and her husband, Harold, in their new home in Woodside. Lena worries that Ying-ying will see how precarious their marriage is.

The story flashes back to when Lena was eight. To encourage her to finish her food, Ying-ying told her that her future husband would have a pock mark on his face for every piece of rice she did not eat. Lena immediately thought of Arnold, a neighbor who had small marks about the size of grains of rice on his face and was mean to her. She was frightened she would have to...

(The entire section is 1237 words.)

Four Directions Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Mr. Rory: Waverly’s hairdresser

Marlene Ferber: Waverly’s friend

Marvin Chen: Waverly’s first husband

Shoshana: Waverly’s and Marvin’s daughter

Rich Schields: Waverly’s fiancé, a tax attorney

Lisa Lum: Vincent Jong’s girlfriend

Summary
Waverly, age 36, describes meeting her mother for lunch in an unsuccessful bid to tell her she’s marrying Rich Schields. Lindo has never met him, and she changes the subject whenever Waverly mentions him. Waverly takes Lindo to her cluttered apartment to show off a mink jacket, Rich’s Christmas gift. Lindo criticizes its poor quality and refuses to acknowledge the...

(The entire section is 1087 words.)

Without Wood Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Old Mr. Chou: the Chinese equivalent of the Sandman

Summary
When Rose was little, she had bad dreams. In one of them, she fell through a hole in Old Mr. Chou’s floor into a garden. When he shouted at her, she began to run through fields of surrealistic flowers until she came upon sandboxes, each containing a new doll. An-mei told Old Mr. Chou that she knew which one Rose would select, so Rose deliberately chose a different one. An-mei shouted, “Stop her!” and Rose ran off, followed by Old Mr. Chou, who told her she should listen to her mother. When Rose told her the dream, An-mei laughed and said Rose should ignore Old Mr. Chou and just listen to her; Rose protests that...

(The entire section is 1264 words.)

Best Quality Summary and Analysis

Summary
Jing-mei, the narrator, describes a pendant necklace Suyuan gave her a few weeks before her death. Called a “life’s importance,” the pendant is an elaborately carved piece of white and green jade about the size of her little finger. She believes the carvings symbolize her mother’s wishes for her, but she doesn’t know what they are, and no one else can tell her.

The story flashes back to the night her mother gave her the pendant. Suyuan had invited the Jongs over to celebrate Chinese New Year, so earlier in the day she and Jing-mei went shopping for crabs. As Jing-mei selects the tenth crab, she accidentally causes another crab to lose a leg. The manager sees them and forces them to buy the...

(The entire section is 877 words.)

Queen Mother of the Western Skies, Vignette Summary and Analysis

Summary
A grandmother plays with her infant granddaughter on her lap. She says she doesn’t know which is better, innocence or safety. She was once innocent and laughed “for no reason” but gave up that foolishness to protect herself. She taught her daughter to do the same. Now she wonders if she did the right thing.

The baby laughs. The grandmother pretends the baby is Syi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the Western Skies, who has already lived many lifetimes and knows the answer. She listens, and thanks the baby for her advice. She says the baby must teach its mother, the grandmother’s daughter, “how to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”

Analysis
...

(The entire section is 248 words.)

Magpies Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Wu Tsing: An-mei’s mother’s second husband, a wealthy merchant in Tientsin

Yan Chang: An-mei’s mother’s personal servant

First Wife: Wu Tsing’s official wife, mother of two daughters. She is addicted to opium

Second Wife: Wu Tsing’s concubine. She dominates the other women in the household

Third Wife: Wu Tsing’s concubine. She has three daughters

Fifth Wife: Wu Tsing’s most recent concubine. She is very young

Syaudi: son of Wu Tsing and An-mei’s mother. Second Wife claims him as her own

Summary
An-mei, the narrator, talks about Rose’s divorce. Rose complains that she has no choice in the...

(The entire section is 907 words.)

Waiting Between the Trees Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Ying-ying’s first husband: never named, Ying-ying called him “Uncle” when she first met him. He is murdered by a mistress

Summary
Ying-ying, the narrator, loves her daughter Lena, but they have never been close. She wants to tell her daughter everything about her life now in an effort to rescue Lena from herself.

The story flashes back to Ying-ying’s childhood. She says she was a wild, stubborn, and arrogant girl from a wealthy family. She met a coarse, drunken man the night her youngest aunt was married. The day after her aunt’s wedding, she saw a sign that convinced her she would marry him.

As they sat in a boat on Tai Lake not long after their...

(The entire section is 916 words.)

Double Face Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lindo’s helper in Peking: never named, she gives Lindo advice about coming to America

Lindo’s helper in San Francisco: never named, she helps Lindo get an apartment and job

Summary
Lindo narrates this story, set in the present. Waverly has second thoughts about going to China on her honeymoon with Rich. Lindo assures her that everyone in China will know she is not Chinese by the look on her face.

Lindo wanted her children to have “the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character.” She did not realize that the two don’t mix. She was able to teach Waverly the American part about opportunity but not the Chinese part about personal...

(The entire section is 1000 words.)

A Pair of Tickets Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Aiyi: Jing-mei’s great-aunt

Lili: Aiyi’s great-granddaughter

Wang Chwun Yu and Wang Chwun Hwa: Suyuan’s twin daughters, Jing-mei’s half sisters. Their names mean “Spring Rain” and “Spring Flower”

Mei Ching and Mei Han: the couple who find and raise the twins

Suyuan’s schoolmate: never named. She recognizes the twins and contacts Suyuan with their address

Summary
Jing-mei narrates this story. She and her father are on a train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, China. Her father has tears in his eyes as he looks out the train window at the countryside. Even Jing-mei is moved by the sight, “as if [she] had seen this a...

(The entire section is 1268 words.)