The Joy Luck Club Research Paper

1210 Words5 Pages
A beloved and highly celebrated author of the 20th century, Amy Tan explores and exposes the history and culture of China through powerfully telling the stories of the lives of Chinese-American minorities. As the daughter of two Chinese immigrants, Tan “spent her childhood years attempting to understand… the contradictions between her ethnicity and the dominant Western culture” (Huntley 2) present in Oakland, California, where she grew up (“Amy”). Like other Asian-Americans, Tan was an Americanized teenager who tried to fulfill the expectations of her traditional Chinese parents (Huntley 2). Reflecting this theme and many others, her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, “helped to catapult Asian American fiction into the literary mainstream” (Huntley…show more content…
Tan experienced language as a source of disjunction in her own childhood home (Huntley 3). Daisy, Tan’s mother, had a Chinese-inflected speech that led to linguistic tensions and taunts from Tan’s classmates (Huntley 3). Using her own life experiences, Tan brings awareness to her Western audience of those who have difficulty trying to express their thoughts, bringing light to the daily life of an Asian immigrant. In Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, all the daughters understand Mandarin, but they speak English exclusively, while the mothers are fluent in Mandarin, but speak English that often confuses their daughters (Heung 604). From her first novel, Tan begins to establish the immigrant experience that she is a part of by acknowledging the complexity of language for Asian-American families, which previously had not been explored in American literature. She speaks for her Chinese community, giving a voice to millions of Asian immigrants for the first time, and portrays the people’s struggles to communicate in such a Western dominating society. On the other hand, Critic Xiaomei Chen points out the significant benefits for those who speak perfect English: “…by virtue of telling and recording mothers’ stories in perfect English, daughters acquire political and linguistic power their mothers never had: the power of production and reproduction of knowledge in a society that is still very discriminatory” (118). Though Tan uses language essentially to reveal one’s identity, she also gives it the power to create status differences and cultural gaps between those who are fluent in English and those who are fluent in Mandarin. Tan focuses on articulating to the average American reader the cultural barriers that result from linguistic tensions,

More about The Joy Luck Club Research Paper

Open Document