Reading The Joy Luck Club

程 文清

Amy Tan was born in California, in 1952, after her parents emigrated to the United States from China. Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, and other several novels. Both of the first two novels have become major international bestsellers since their publication.

I approached her novels with great curiosity. As a Chinese, living temporarily in this foreign country, Japan, I want to find out what kind of life, the characters, the Chinese Americans are living in her novels. Having finished reading The Joy Luck Club, I have thought a lot.

The Joy Luck Club is the story about four mothers and their first generation Chinese-American daughters. The mothers emigrate to the United States from China during the Second World War. At that time China is the place of war, poverty, scattering of family, and death. The mothers start a journey away from their native country, after their loss of every thing, and in the hope of a bright future in this new country. However, the road is not always even, they are strangers, despised, and hurt in the heart. They try to assimilate in the American society but they can't forget the Chinese culture they were born with. The cultural conflicts is everywhere in their life. While the daughters were born in the United States, and educated by the mainstream culture. At home they can't accept their mothers' Chinese way of thinking. In the society , they are Chinese-American, the minority. Therefore both the two generations of women are struggling to seek their cultural identity.

At the end of the book, one of daughters come back to China after her mother's death to meet her sisters she has never known. It is a long and hard jouney both in distance and in the daughter's heart, she is anxious but also a bit afraid to step on the land where her parents were born and had those happy and painful old days Just as what it is said in Aesop's fables, blood is thicker than water. She sees "it is my family, it is in our blood ", at the moment they meet at the airport.

Travels or trips will be happy and exciting most of the time, for example, a one week trip to Hawaii or Paris. Certainly, everyone will enjoy the sightseeing of these romantic and magnificent cities, or even want to linger several days longer, and after the excitement of trvaling they will return to their simple daily life. And very probably they will have romantic unforgetabale memories about the places they have visited. But to leave one's native country is sometimes different, and often on the purpose to get out the present difficulties, or to realize one's ideal. Therefore, it is not a easy journey, but with rugged and uneven roads, just like the mothers' long journey to American in The The Joy Luck Club. Somebody may say it is such a far-fetched comparison to call living in a foreign country a journey, but it is, it is a life's journey, it will bring experiences useful in all the life.

This is my first year in Japan. Generally, my life is full of smiles and laughter because I have many Japanese friends who are ready to help me so that, I do not feel lonely. At school many friends and teachers try to understand me no matter what a broken Japanese I speak. I have visited a lot of places, Tokyo, kyoto, Kobe, I took a photo before the Kinkakuji, glittering brightly in the sunlight, I wandered around the streets of Kyoto, which is very like my hometown, Xi'an. I went to many festivals(Matsuri), I never get tired of understanding the daily panorama of Japanese People. I like this lovely and polite country so much. But as many researchers on cross-cultural contact have said cultural adjustment is just like "a fish out of water". It is a long way before a foreigner can really adjust to the new society. At night, no matter how tired I am, I dream of my hometown, my family, and also old friends. I will feel uneasy about any stereotypes against Chinese whether it is on good will or not. Sometimes I even feel a loss of confidence.

Although it is not very possible for most of the people to choose to live in a foreign country as the mothers in The Joy Luck Club. But now days to be temporarily away from one's native land may be very possible. For the journey, we should not only prepare a briefcase. The exotic scenery may be attracting, but the under- standing of that culture will also be very important. Moreover lonliness and homesickness will be good companies in the first few monthes. It is a life's journey and through it one becomes mature.


The Chukyo University Society of English Language and Literature
Last modified: Wed May 12, 1999