The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, is a fictional novel that consists of sixteen-intertwined stories about the conflict between four Chinese immigrant mothers, and their four Chinese American-born daughters. Published in 1989, this book takes place in San Francisco, California, and parts of China.
An interesting note about the book is how it does not follow chronological order. It is broken into four different sections. The story starts off with Jing-mei June Woo, daughter of Suyuan Woo who has just recently passed away, and then tells the mothers’ stories. The second section jumps more to the present and talks about the daughter’s lives. It continues like that, until the fourth and final section where it goes back to the mothers’ narratives.
The novel is based upon mostly the story of a mother named Suyuan Woo and her daughter Jing-mei June Woo, and how Jing-mei travels back to China to meet her half sisters, Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa. The reason her half-sister are still in China was due to the Japanese invasion of Kweilin during World War II, and her mother’s sacrifice of leaving them on a roadside to flee to safety. Years later, Jing-mei is born in America to a different father.
However, she intended to return to China, but sadly dies before she gets the chance to find them.
Jing-mei is now taking her mother’s spot in mahjong at the weekly gathering her mother had created back in China, and was brought to San Francisco when she moved to the United States. The weekly gathering included Suyuan’s other friends and members-Lindo Jong, An-mei Hsu, and Ying Ying St. Clair. Just before Suyuan had died, she had been able to track down her other daughters. So the women give Jing-mei money to go and find them and tell them about their mother’s life.
The middle part of the book is about the daughters- Waverly Jong, Rose Hsu Jordan, Lena St. Clair, and of course Jing-mei Woo, making connections of their childhood relationships with their mothers, and talking about their relationship with their mothers, and the struggles they are going through.
The last section of the book goes back to the Chinese mothers perspective, and their attempt to appease the divide between Chinese and American cultures by coming up with solutions that can solve both types of values and wants.
This book does not just tell the stories of eight women, but rather the more complex relationship and misunderstandings that results in a division between Chinese born mothers and their American born daughters.
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