Being a Chinese myself, perhaps my judgment of Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” is impaired. Surely, there are many Chinese immigrants whom have successfully integrated themselves into the Western world, without the emotional baggage of Tan’s characters. My message to Tan: Don’t dwell on it, girl. Everyone suffers. Truth be told, in America, no one is a local. We suffer the same cultural confusion, the same identity issues. We are one giant melting pot of different people, united by that same American dream. It is this American dream that leads Tan’s characters to seek refuge from broken pasts and shattered love. Sadly, in Tan’s novel, the only characters who truly feel are Chinese women. If Tan is asking us see beyond race, why are the only developed characters Chinese? Why should anguish be exclusive to the suppressed woman? Men are equally capable of crying, as are people other than the Chinese.
Perhaps Amy Tan herself has a vague understanding about her own Chinese heritage. Her portrayal of Chinese women is entirely stereotypical, and there is little truth to it. I assure you that my own Chinese grandparents, never speak in metaphors such as “You must grow strong like a tree” or “I am a tiger waiting to pounce” In fact, her reliance on allegories, proverbs and local folklore shield us away from feeling for the characters. The novel tries too hard to be meaningful, tries too hard to weld into our tear ducts. But it’s simply trying too hard. Certainly, the eight central characters are quite perplexing to follow up on. The constant switching of narrative voice only reinforces this confusion. I feel that Amy Tan did not do enough research into real Chinese life, before sitting down to write Joy Luck Club.
In my opinion, this novel paints a sick picture of Chinese culture, appealing only to those unfamiliar to the Chinese. Amy Tan is an opportunist who is milking her ethnic background for all its worth. She makes China seem grossly exotic, oppressive and patriarchal. Then, she portrays America as the land of hope, egalitarian and all. Please, Ms Tan. I don’t want to read an entire novel about these poor Chinese women being plucked away from an evil Chinese society. I would be ashamed to be her Chinese husband. If this is the way she portrays most Chinese men. She deforms, misinterprets, and humiliates the very characters that she is writing about. And, no more ” now you are safe in America” attitude. In infuriates me, that she so blatantly misrepresents the international Chinese community.
You must think I have a personal hatred against Amy Tan. But I don’t. As in any novel, there are strengths and weaknesses. In “Joy Luck Club” there is breathtaking imagery and clever use of juxtaposition. Chapters such as “Moon Lady” and Waiting between the trees” are beautifully written. Maybe Tan should try songwriting or poetry. She is after all, quite brilliant with lyrical technique.
“Joy luck Club” is just one of the string of novels by Asian American writers. But are they trying to sell their culture, whipping it up palatably for Non- Asians who want an insight into Asian culture? Is this the ethical thing to do? I’m sick of this yin-yang, hopeless suffering, abusive man, and voiceless woman thing. Many of these writers are only doing more harm, by perpetuating and encouraging stereotyping. Lets see more work that is aimed at a wider audience. An audience that is not defined by race, gender, or being.