Amy Tan Additional Biography


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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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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.

In spite of her considerable literary success, Amy...

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Amy Tan began writing fiction as a distraction from her work as a technical writer. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Tan wanted to find a way to...

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Amy Tan was born in 1952 in Oakland, California, to Daisy and John Tan. Her Chinese name, An-mei, means ‘‘Blessing from America,’’...

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Amy Tan was born in 1952 to first-generation Chinese- American parents. At her birth, Tan was given the Chinese name An-Mai, meaning...

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Tan was born on February 19, 1952, in Oakland, California, two and a half years after her parents emigrated from China. Her father was...

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