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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