by James Tan and Samantha Tan
Amy Tan was born in the United states in 1952 to Chinese immigrant parents. In the years preceding her success as a fiction novelist, Ms. Tan experienced many instances of misfortune, especially the death of many close to her and the struggle of her parents. Amy used her personal experiences to write her much-loved works, finding success in works like The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Tan’s works have been praised highly by critics and translated into thirty-five languages for a variety of audiences. Ms. Tan also served as a creative consultant for the Emmy-nominated PBS children’s show Sagwa. On her off time, Amy Tan enjoys being the back-up singer and second tambourine as a part of the literary garage band, the Rock Bottom Remainders.
Personal Excerpt by Sam Tan
For me, I can’t say that Amy Tan’s works impacted me; instead, it was reading about her life, experiences, and influences that helped me to connect to her as an Asian American. Amy Tan is a role model for all Asian Americans as she flawlessly blends Chinese traditions with the contrasting, modern life of a child of Asian immigrant parents into her work. She teaches her audience to look to the past for guidance while applying their lessons to current day struggles. She also sets an example for Asian Americans to pursue their dreams and not let others expectations stop them from doing what they’re passionate about. For me, she is the frontrunner of the modern day Asian American, balancing the Asian heritage with the American desire for expansion and exploration.
Personal Excerpt by James Tan
As a high school student, it was hard for me to comprehend the themes and motifs that Amy Tan used in her novel, The Bonesetter’s Daughter. In the novel, the experiences of the main character, Ruth, are portrayed like a coming-of-age story. As Ruth reads her mother’s autobiography, she comes to understand her mother’s traditional practices. Much like Ruth, I did not understand the references to the odd rituals described in the book and largely found the story itself to be weird and creepy. Being quite the scaredy cat, I could not sympathize with the feelings Ruth or the other characters exhibited, and felt uncomfortable reading the novel.
However, as a college student now involved in the Asian American Center and the Asian American community on campus, I no longer feel the same discomfort as before when approaching issues about identity. I had been ignorant and apathetic due to my previous lack of education in the issues and to my lack of desire to learn about them. Similarly to Ruth, I began to understand my cultural background more as I continued to learned about it. Being in an environment in which people regularly explore their identities has allowed me to explore my own.
The struggles of growing up in the Asian American diaspora are very unique and sometimes difficult. The identity crisis growing up as we learn to differentiate what it means to be ‘Asian’, ‘American’, and ‘Asian American’ in a constantly evolving world of self-expression is easily relatable to many college students. We recommend those wishing to learn more about these social experiences to read The Bonesetter’s Daughter or other works by Amy Tan.