1     



Amy Tan

  • American novelist
  • Born February 19, 1952

Amy Tan (born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese American experience. Her novel The Joy Luck Club was adapted into a film in 1993 by director Wayne Wang. Tan has written several other novels, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement. Tan's latest book is a memoir entitled Where The Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir (2017). In addition to these, Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series that aired on PBS.


Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.




God, life changes faster than you think.




I would never require anyone to read any book. That seems antithetical to why we read - which is to choose a book for our personal reasons. I always shudder when I'm told my books are on required reading lists.




There are a lot of people who think that's what's needed to be successful is always being right, always being careful, always picking the right path.




No one in my family was a reader of literary fiction. So, I didn't have encouragement, but I didn't have discouragement, because I don't think anybody knew what that meant.




We are the kind of people who obsess over one word... but we have only one shot to get it right in concert. It was hard the first time I practiced with them. I was so nervous that my vocal chords were paralyzed for about a half-hour.




When I go back and read my journals or fiction, I am always surprised. I may not remember having those thoughts, but they still exist and I know they are mine, and it's all part of making sense of who I am.




Chinese artists have been subversive over thousands of years, taking what they think of the government and embedding it in their art. There might be censorship of not going as far as they might.




At the beginning of my career as a writer, I felt I knew nothing of Chinese culture. I was writing about emotional confusion with my mother related to our different beliefs. Hers was based in family history, which I didn't know anything about. I always felt hesitant in talking about Chinese culture and American culture.




I thought I was clever enough to write as well as these people and I didn't realize that there is something called originality and your own voice.




I was intelligent enough to make up my own mind. I not only had freedom of choice, I had freedom of expression.




People talk about this 'bucket list': 'I need to go to this country, I need to skydive.' Whereas I need to think as much as I can, to feel as much as I can, to be conscious and observe and understand me and the people around me as much as I can.




I read a book a day when I was a kid. My family was not literary; we did not have any books in the house.




My parents had very high expectations. They expected me to get straight A's from the time I was in kindergarten.




People think it's a terrible tragedy when somebody has Alzheimer's. But in my mother's case, it's different. My mother has been unhappy all her life. For the first time in her life, she's happy.




I saw my mother in a different light. We all need to do that. You have to be displaced from what's comfortable and routine, and then you get to see things with fresh eyes, with new eyes.




You write a book and you hope somebody will go out and pay $24.95 for what you've just said. I think books were my salvation. Books saved me from being miserable.




It's a luxury being a writer, because all you ever think about is life.




Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone.




I would still like to have that luxury, to be able to just sit and draw for hours and hours and hours. In a way, that's what I do as a writer.




I have a writer's memory which makes everything worse than maybe it actually was.




I like to go somewhere where I learn something I didn't know before, like the Dry Tortugas between Florida and Cuba.




In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.




I would find myself laughing and wondering where these ideas came from. You can call it imagination, I suppose. But I was grateful for wherever they came from.




I write because I know that one day I will die, and thus I should experience as many deliberate observations, careful thoughts, wild ideas, and deep emotions as I can before that day occurs.




I also thought of playing improvisational jazz and I did take lessons for a while. At first I tried to write fiction by making up things that were completely alien to my life.




I started a second novel seven times and I had to throw them away.




The forbidden things were a great influence on my life. I was forbidden from reading A Catcher in the Rye.




Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.




My mother said I was a clingy kid until I was about four. I also remember that from the age of eight she and I fought almost every day.




You can get sucked into the idea that, 'Gosh, this is impressive. Maybe I should do this. It will look good.' Or 'I'll write like this because it will impress that critic.'




I wanted to write stories for myself. At first it was purely an aesthetic thing about craft. I just wanted to become good at the art of something. And writing was very private.




I'd like to be more forgiving. There are times when I've had a hard time forgiving people who have betrayed me.




My parents told me I would become a doctor and then in my spare time I would become a concert pianist. So, both my day job and my spare time were sort of taken care of.




My writing often contains souvenirs of the day - a song I heard, a bird I saw - which I then put into the novel.




I'm open to reading almost anything - fiction, nonfiction - as long as I know from the first sentence or two that this is a voice I want to listen to for a good long while. It has much to do with imagery and language, a particular perspective, the assured knowledge of the particular universe the writer has created.



1