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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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How did the Joy Luck Club begin?

Quick answer:

The Joy Luck Club begins in China. A refugee to Kweilin, a city overrun with exiles and filled with hunger and despair, Suyuan starts the club with three other women to try to find luck, joy, and hope amid the horrors of war. She later starts one in America.

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Suyuan Woo starts the Joy Luck Club in Kweilin, where she is sent by husband during the second Sino-Japanese war. The city is overrun with refugees from all parts of China. The area is subject to bombing raids and filled with terrible smells, squalor, and hunger. To fight her emotional pain and despair, Suyuan invites three other woman to become part of a club that meets once a week to play mah-jongg. The idea is to both raise money and improve the women's depressed spirits.

The woman eat food that brings good luck, such as dumplings shaped like ingots, long noodles to represent long life, and most of all, oranges, a symbol of good fortune. They don't notice that the oranges are wormy and the dumplings stuffed with squash.

The paper currency they win from each other playing mah-jongg is worthless, but because they share happy stories of the past and hopeful stories of the future, the women find value in the club. They hope to be lucky, and that hope gives them joy. They call their group the Joy Luck Club, because it is a place where luck and joy intertwine. It helps sustain them during a very dark time when people are starving and hopeless.

Later, when she comes to the United States, Suyuan sees a numbed look on the faces of three other Chinese women and restarts the club in America to try to bring joy and luck to the new country.

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