In 1989, Amy Tan’s first book, The Joy Luck Club, sold 275,000 hardcover copies in its first Putnam publication, paving the way for other first-time Asian-American writers. Although Tan has since written other critically acclaimed books, such as The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses, many still feel that Tan’s first effort was her most important. The Joy Luck Club is hailed for its discussion of both Chinese Americans and motherdaughter relationships. Set in San Francisco in the 1980s, the majority of the book is told in flashback, and is organized into sixteen separate tales, all narrated by either a Chinese-born mother or her American-born daughter. ‘‘Rules of the Game,’’ narrated by one of the daughters, Waverly Jong, details Waverly’s rise and fall as an American chess champion when she is a child.
Tan had many inspirations for writing the book. The most direct influence was her first trip to China in 1987, where she met her two Chinese half-sisters for the first time. In the book, the very similar story of Jing-Mei Woo, who is preparing to go see her two half-sisters in China shortly after her mother’s death, provides the narrative structure upon which the other stories are hung. Tan was also inspired by Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine (1984)—a multiple- narrator novel that details the experiences of Native Americans in the United States. The Joy Luck Club was adapted as a critically acclaimed film in 1993, where Tan served as both co-producer and co-screenwriter. As one of the linked stories in The Joy Luck Club, ‘‘Rules of the Game’’ can be found in any edition of Tan’s book. The most widely available version is the current paperback edition, published by Ivy Books in 1995.