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About Amy Tan

Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California in 1952, several years after her mother and father immigrated to the San Francisco Bay area from China. When she was eight, her essay, “What the Library Means to Me”, won first prize among elementary school participants, for which Tan received a transistor radio and publication in the local newspaper. Upon the deaths of her brother and father in 1967 and 1968 from brain tumors, the family began a haphazard journey through Europe, before settling in Montreux, Switzerland, where Tan graduated in her junior year in 1969.

For the next seven years, Tan attended five schools. She first went to Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and there, on a blind date, met her future husband, Lou DeMattei. She followed him to San Jose, where she enrolled at San Jose City College. She next attended San Jose State University, and, while working two part-time jobs, became an English honor's student and a President's Scholar. In 1972, Tan graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. with a double major in English and Linguistics. She was awarded a scholarship to attend the Summer Linguistics Institute at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1973, she earned her M.A. in Linguistics, also from San Jose State University, and then was awarded a Graduate Minority Fellowship under the affirmative action program at the University of California, Berkeley, where she enrolled as a doctoral student in linguistics. Following the murder of one of her closest friends, Tan left her doctoral program before completing her degree, and for the next five years worked as a language development consultant and project director for programs serving disabled children from birth to age five. She then became a freelance business writer specializing in corporate communications for such companies as AT&T, IBM, and Pacific Bell.

In 1985, when a psychiatrist treating Tan for her self-described workaholism fell asleep for the third time during one of their sessions, Tan quit therapy and decided to write fiction instead. She attended her first writer's workshop, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, where she met the writer Molly Giles, who later led a small workshop that often met in Tan's house. In 1986, Tan's first short story, End Game, appeared in the now defunct magazine, FM Five. The story was later reprinted in Seventeen, which attracted the attention of literary agent, Sandra Dijkstra, who encouraged Tan to continue writing fiction. When Tan had completed three stories, her agent submitted them, along with a proposal for a collection, which was bought by editor Faith Sale at G.P. Putnam's Sons. In 1989, The Joy Luck Club was published and, through word-of-mouth endorsements by independent booksellers, became a surprise bestseller, logging more than 40 weeks on the New York Times list. Though Tan wrote the book as a collection of linked short stories, reviewers enthusiastically and erroneously referred to the book as an intricately woven novel. The label stuck. The Joy Luck Club was nominated for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award. It received the Commonwealth Gold Award and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. It was adapted into a feature film in 1994, for which Tan was a co-screenwriter with Ron Bass and a co-producer with Bass and Wayne Wang.

Tan's second book, The Kitchen God's Wife, was published in 1991, followed by The Hundred Secret Senses in 1995. Both books appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. Her latest novel, The Bonesetter's Daughter, is scheduled for publication in February 2001.

Tan's short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Grand Street, Harper's, The New Yorker, Threepenny Review, Ski, and others. Her essay, “Mother Tongue” was chosen for Best American Essays in 1991 and has been widely anthologized. Tan's books are often included as part of the multicultural curriculum of high schools and colleges, an honor which caused her much ambivalence and led her to writing a speech, “Required Reading and Other Dangerous Subjects,” which she has since delivered in universities across the country. She is the editor for the 1999 edition of Best American Short Stories. Her work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Catalan, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Russian, Estonian, Serbo-Croation, Czech, Polish, Hebrew, Greek, Tagalog, and Indonesian.

In addition, Tan has written two children's books, The Moon Lady (1992) and The Chinese Siamese Cat (1994). The latter is now being developed into a children's television series, and is part of a symphony program of words and music produced and conducted by George Daughtery. Along with novelist Stephen King and columnist Dave Barry, Tan is a member of the literary garage band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, for which she sings the Nancy Sinatra classic, "These Boots Are Made for Walking," to raise money for literacy and first amendment rights groups. Tan's rendition of the pop culture classic can be heard on the CD album, "Stranger than Fiction," which benefits the PEN Writers Fund.

Tan lives in San Francisco and New York with her husband, Lou DeMattei, their cat, Sagwa, and their two Yorkshire terriers, Bubba and Lilli.

Pick your favorite Amy Tan Book

               The Bonesetter's Daughter

  • The Bonesetter's Daughter
    By Amy Tan from Ballantine Books.
    The first time Amy Tan—The New York Times best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, and The Hundred Secret Senses—learned her mother's real name as well as that of her grandmother was on the day she died. It happened as Tan and several siblings—unified by a need to feel helpful instead of helpless—gathered to discuss their dying mother's past and prepare her obituary. Tan was stunned when she realized she had not known her own mother's birth name. It was just one of several surprises. In the act of writing a simple obituary Tan came to realize there was still so much she did not know about her. Soon afterwards she began rewriting the novel she had been working on for five years. Inspired by her own experiences with family secrets kept by one generation from the next, and drawn from a lifetime of questions and images, the result is The Bonesetters's Daughter.

    The story begins when Ruth Young, a ghostwriter of self-help books, comes across a clipped stack of papers in the bottom of a desk drawer. Young has been caring for her ailing mother, LuLing, who is beginning to show the unmistakable signs of Alzheimer's disease. Written in Chinese by LuLing years earlier, when she first started worrying something was wrong with her memory, the papers contain a narrative of LuLing's life as a girl in China, and the life of her own mother, the daughter of the Famous Bonesetter from the village of Xian Xin—Immortal Heart—near the Mouth of the Mountain. Within the calligraphed pages Ruth finds the truth about a mother's heart, what she cannot tell her daughter yet hopes her daughter will never forget.

    With her latest novel Amy Tan explores the changing place one has in a family of names that were nearly forgotten. Just as she herself has done, Tan shows Ruth finding the secrets and fragments of her mother's past—its heartfelt desires, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes—and with each new discovery reconfiguring her assessment of the woman who shaped her life, who is in her bones.

    The extent to which Tan's newest novel mixes pure fiction with elements of autobiography is made clear by Tan herself. In acknowledgements of The Bonesetter's Daughter she writes, “The heart of this story belongs to my grandmother, its voice to my mother.”

    Customer Reviews

    Although I am familiar with Amy Tan's work after seeing and enjoying the movie adaptation of THE JOY LUCK CLUB, this is the first time I actually read one of her novels, and it is definitely on my personal Top 10 List for 2002!

    Amy Tan is an expert at portraying the complex relationship between...


  • The Joy Luck Club
    By Amy Tan from Prentice Hall.
    In 1949 four Chinese women—drawn together by the shadow of their past—begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and “say” stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club.

    It is a story of 4 strongly bonded Chinese born and raised women who immigrate to the US in the mid-1950s, and their American born and raised daughters. It chronicles the history of their lives in China and the sacrifice of giving their children a better way of life. Each women has their own story.

    Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother's lifelong wish?and the tragic way in which it has come true.

    The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember...


  • The Kitchen God's Wife
    By Amy Tan from Ivy Books.

    Customer Reviews

      Now that I've read 2 of Ms. Tan's novels (THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE and THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER) and seen the movie THE JOY LUCK CLUB, I can honestly identify her as one of my favorite authors. Her wonderful story-telling ability, believable characters and fascinating exploration of Chinese culture...


  • The Hundred Secret Senses
    By Amy Tan from Ivy Books.

    Customer Reviews

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The lead character really grew on me, and I found myself laughing out loud several times. However, she really began to grate on my nerves, as did the wimpy Simon, once they all went to China. I just didn't care anymore and found myself skipping over...


  • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat
    By Amy Tan from Aladdin Library.

    Customer Reviews

    Amy Tan proves her talent with this book. She shows a young kitten's innocence and how it changes the province. A wonderful read for children and adults alike. Amy's got a hit!

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