The Joy Luck Club SDU，Dec. 2012 The Joy Luck Club (1989) Who: four Chinese American immigrant families First edition cover Where:San Francisco, California What: a mahjong club known as "the Joy Luck Club," How: the framework of the book is somewhat like a mahjong game, with four parts divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters, with each player telling her stories. Each part is preceded by a parable relating to the game. Reception (diverse voices) Yem Siu Fong: (It) speaks to the bonds and conflict of the mother-daughter relationship, and adds to it the complexities of two cultures: China’s centuries-old traditions amid a life in the United Sates that is fluid, impermanent, and eternally questioning….We are given glimps into former lives and painful experiences that have remained private. (Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 11. 2/3 Spirituality, Values, and Ethics (1990): 122-123, p122. Frank Chin: The novel perpetuates racist stereotypes and contains fabricated "traditional" stories. Amy Tan Amy Tan(1952-) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. Her most wellknown work is The Joy Luck Club, which has been translated into 35 languages. Other works include several other bestselling novels, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter and Saving Fish from Drowning. She also wrote a collection of non-fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings. Images in diverse dimensions Mothers as strange or weird (in the eys of the daughters) v.s. mothers’ real selves Mothers’ past v.s. their present Daughters as aliens (in the eyes of the mothers) v.s. their American identities Ideal daughters v.s. what they real are “It is remarkable for foregrounding the voices of maothers as well of daughters” (Marina Heung,599). "Auntie, Uncle," I say, repeatedly, nodding to each person there. I have always called these old family friends Auntie and Uncle. And then I walk over and stand next to my father. (I.1.38) Auntie Lin and my mother were both best friends and arch enemies who spent a lifetime comparing their children. I was one month older than Waverly Jong, Auntie Lin’s prized daughter. From the time we were babies, our mothers compared the creases in our belly buttons, how shapely our earlobes were, how fast we healed…and later, how smart Waverly was at playing chess, how many trophies she had won last month, how many newspapers had printed her name, how many cities she had visited….I know my mother resented listening to Auntie Lin talk about Waverly when she had nothing to come back with. (I.1.110) And in the afternoon, she sat in a char in my room, knitting me a pink sweater while telling me about a sweater that Auntie Suyuan had knit for her daughter June, and it was most unattractive and of the worst yarn. (III.2.60) Different visions/cultures Lindo: I watched this same movie when you did not come. The American soldier promises to come back and marry the girl. She is crying with genuine feeling and he says, "Promise! Promise! Honeysweetheart, my promise is as good as gold." Then he pushes her onto the bed. But he doesn’t come back. His gold is like yours, only fourteen carats…To Chinese people, fourteen carats isn’t real gold. Feel my bracelets. They must be twentyfour carats, pure inside and out. (I.3.2) Lindo: "Chinese people do many things," she said simply. "Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture." (II.1.10) Lindo: "This American rules," she concluded at last. "Every time people come out from foreign country, must know rules. You not know, judge say, Too bad, go back. They not telling you why so you can use their way go forward. They say, Don’t know why, you find out yourself. But they knowing all the time. Better you take it, find out why yourself." She tossed her head back with a satisfied smile." (II.1.27) And then she pointed her crab leg toward her future son-in-law, Rich, and said, "See how this one doesn’t know how to eat Chinese food." "Crab isn’t Chinese," said Waverly in her complaining voice… Auntie Lindo looked at her daughter with exasperation. "How do you know what Is Chinese, what is not Chinese?" And then she turned to Rich and said with much authority, "Why you are not eating the best part?" And I saw Rich smiling back, with amusement, and not humility, showing in his face. He had the same coloring as the crab on his plate: reddish hair, pale cream skin, and large dots of orange freckles. While he smirked, Auntie Lindo demonstrated the proper technique, poking her chopstick into the orange spongy part: "You have to dig in here, get this out. The brain is the most tastiest, you try." Waverly and Rich grimaced at each other, united in disgust. (III.4.40) Different languages/difficulties in communication Jing-mei: "It’s not showoff." She said the two soups were almost the same, chabudwo. Or maybe she said butong, not the same thing at all. It was one of those Chinese expressions that means the better half of mixed intentions. I can never remember things I didn’t understand in the first place. (I.1.6) These kinds of explanations made me feel my mother and I spoke two different languages, which we did. I talked to her in English, she answered back in Chinese. (I.1.84) But listening to Auntie Lin tonight reminds me once again: My mother and I never really understood one another. We translated each other’s meanings and I seemed to hear less than what was said, while my mother heard more. (I.1.109) Lena (Ying-ying’s daughter):I often lied when I had to translate for her, the endless forms, instructions, notices from school, telephone calls. "Shemma yisz?" – What meaning? – she asked me when a man at a grocery store yelled at her for opening up jars to smell the insides. I was so embarrassed I told her that Chinese people were not allowed to shop there. When the school sent a notice home about a polio vaccination, I told her the time and place, and added that all students were now required to use metal lunch boxes, since they had discovered old paper bags can carry polio germs. Mother-daughter relation Jing-mei as well as other daughters of the Joy Luck Club: In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed Americanborn minds “joy luck” is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation. (I.1.144) Waverly：And my mother loved to show me off, like one of the many trophies she polished. She used to discuss my games as if she had devised the strategies. "I told my daughter, Use your horses to run over the enemy," she informed one shopkeeper. "She won very quickly this way. And of course, she had said this before the game – that a hundred other useless things that had nothing to do with my winning. (III.2.12) One day I after we left a shop I said under my breath, I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everybody I’m your daughter." My mother stopped walking. Crowds of people with heavy bags pushed past us on the sidewalk, bumping into first one shoulder, then another. "Aii-ya. So shame be with mother?" She grasped my hand even tighter as she glared at me. I looked down. "It’s not that, it’s just so obvious. It’s just so embarrassing." "Embarrass you be my daughter?" Her voice was cracking with anger. "That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I said." (II.1.59) I didn’t know what to do or say. In a matter of seconds it seemed, I had gone from being angered by her strength, to being amazed by her innocence, and then frightened by her vulnerability. And now I felt numb, strangely weak, as if someone had unplugged me and the current running through me had stopped. (III.2.123) A Land of Opportunities My mother (Suyuan) believed you could be anything you wanted in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous. (II.4.1) Jing-mei:America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better. (II.4.3) A Land of Opportunities Ying-ying: Saint (Clifford St. Clair ) took me to America, where I lived in houses smaller than the one in the country. I wore large American clothes. I did servant’s tasks. I learned the Western ways. I tried to speak with a thick tongue. I raised a daughter, watching her from another shore. I accepted her American ways.…With all these things, I did not care. I had no spirit. (IV.2.75) Lindo: Americans don’t really look at one another when talking. They talk to their reflections. They look at others or themselves only when they think nobody is watching. So they never see how they really look. They see themselves smiling without their mouths open, or turned to the side where they cannot see their faults. (IV.3.18) Lindo: I taught her how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, it’s no lasting shame. You are first in line for a scholarship. If the roof crashes on your head, no need to cry over this bad luck. You can sue anybody, make the landlord fix it. You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirty business on your head. You can buy an umbrella. Or go inside a Catholic church. In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you. She learned these things, but I couldn’t teach her about Chinese character. How to obey your parents and listen to your mother’s mind. How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy things are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring. Why Chinese thinking is best. (IV.3.8) In-between status Rose: And then she spoke quietly about Ted’s future, his need to concentrate on his medical studies, why it would be years before he could even think about marriage. She assured me she had nothing whatsoever against minorities; she and her husband, who owned a chain of office-supply stores, personally knew many fine people who were Oriental, Spanish, and even black. But Ted was going to be in one of those professions where he would be judged by a different standard, by patients and other doctors who might not be as understanding as the Jordans were. She said it was so unfortunate the way the rest of the world was, how unpopular the Vietnam War was. (II.3.14) Failture/Effort to reconstruct self Jing-mei: And after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and the failed expectations. Before going to bed that night, I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when I saw only my face staring back – and it would always be this ordinary face – I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high-pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror. And then I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me – because I had never seen that face before. I looked at my reflection, blinking so I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or rather thoughts filled with lots of won’ts. I won’t let her change me, I promised to myself. I won’t be what I’m not. (II.4.17) Rose: And I think that feeling of fear never left me, that I would be caught someday, exposed as a sham of a woman. But recently, a friend of mine, Rose, who’s in therapy now because her marriage is falling apart, told me those kinds of thoughts are commonplace in women like us. "At first I thought it was because I was raised with all this Chinese humility," Rose said. "Or that maybe it was because when you’re Chinese you’re supposed to accept everything, flow with the Tao and not make waves. But my therapist said, Why do you blame your culture, your ethnicity? And I remembered reading an article about baby boomers, how we expect the best and when we get it we worry that maybe we should have expected more, because it’s all diminishing returns after a certain age." (III.1.45) Rose (finally standing up to guard herself):Ted pulled out the divorce papers and stared at them. His x’s were still there, the blanks were still blank. "What do you think you’re doing? Exactly what?" he said. And the answer, the one that was important above everything else, ran through my body and fell from my lips: "You can’t just pull me out of your life and throw me away." (III.3.104) My mother has a wounded sound in her voice, as if I had put the list up to hurt her. I think how to explain this, recalling the words Harold and I have used with each other in the past: "So we can eliminate false dependencies…be equals…love without obligation…" But these are words she could never understand…. So instead I tell my mother this: "I don’t really know. It’s something we started before we got married. And for some reason we never stopped." (III.1.84) "Lena cannot eat ice cream," says my mother. "So it seems. She’s always on a diet." "No, she never eat it. She doesn’t like." "And now Harold smiles and looks at me puzzled, expecting me tot translate what my mother has said. "It’s true," I say evenly. "I’ve hated ice cream almost all my life." Harold looks at me, as if I too, were speaking Chinese and he could not understand. I guess I assumed you were just trying to lose weight…oh well." "She become so thin now you cannot see her," says my mother. "She like a ghost, disappear." That’s right! Christ, that’s great," exclaims Harold, laughing, relieved in thinking my mother is graciously trying to rescue him. (III.1.90) Lindo & Waverly: My daughter did not look pleased when I told her this, that she didn’t look Chinese. She had a sour American look on her face. Oh, maybe ten years ago, she would have clapped her hands – hurray! – as if this were good news. But now she wants to be Chinese, it is so fashionable. And I know it is too late. All those years I tried to teach her! She followed my Chinese ways only until she learned how to walk out the door by herself and go to school. (IV.3.6) Diverse Images Telling, memory and identity “Within the microcultural structure of family, the only means available for mothers to ensure ethnic continuity is to recollect the past and to tell tales of what is remembered”(Ben Xu, 4) “Retelling the Kweilin story in her own words helped Jing-mei Woo re-experience her mother’s past life in her homeland and in Diaspora; it was an experience which had been written off by both domestic and internaitnal fathers and which had thus dropped out of history. Her mother and other ‘naturalized’immigrants were consumed --- and sometimes, commercialized --- as the Other in the Western cosciety, and their lack of ENlgish literary, or of an ‘inter-cultural literacy’, fundamentally reduced these ethnic minority women to a marginal position without subject and power”(Xiaomei Chen, 114) Bibliography Adams, Bella. “Representing History in Amy Tan's ‘The Kitchen God's Wife’“. MELUS, 28. 2, Haunted by History (Summer, 2003). pp. 9-30. Chen Xiaomei. “Reading Mother's Tale-Reconstructing Women's Space in Amy Tan and Zhang Jie”. Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews. Vol. 16, (1994). pp. 111-132. Heung, Marina. “Daughter-Text/Mother-Text: Matrilineage in Amy Tan's ‘Joy Luck Club’. Feminist Studies. 19, 3, Who's East? Whose East? (Autumn, 1993). pp. 596-616. Lee, Ken-fang. “Cultural Translation and the Exorcist: A Reading of Kingston's and Tan's ‘Ghost Stories’”. MELUS. 29. 2, Elusive Illusions: Art and Reality (Summer, 2004). pp. 105-127. Xu Ben. “Memory and the Ethnic Self: Reading Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club”. MELUS.19, 1, Varieties of Ethnic Criticism (Spring, 1994). pp. 3-18. Background of the publication of the work: multiculturalism Civil rights movement enabled the ethnic groups to proclaim their political, economic and cultural appeals. The influence of ever-rising Matrilineal Literary tradition: The feminist movement promoted the research and writing of feminism with motherdaughter relation as a focus, as represented by Of Women Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976) by Adrienne Rich. Nancy Chodorow proposed that the focus of attention should not be limited to the experiences of the middle-class white female, and ethnicity should also be taken into consideration. In-between status and the fluidity of culture & Identity Fluidity of American identity: “我们要想就什么是美国人的身份达 成共识，就得首先承认美国人身份错综复杂，不惧单纯的清一色 的同一性，因为美国是个移民社会，是在摧毁了原住民文化之后 建立的”（Said：Culture and Imperialism， 1994， xxv.） Homi Bhabha: “对认同而言，身份绝不是先验之物，也不是成品， 它永远只能是向着总体性形象接近的一个难以捉摸的过程”。 （The Locating of Culture） Stewart Hull：Identity can be divided into Identity of being and identity of becoming. Amy Ling: “在美国的华人，无论是新来的移民还是美国出生的， 均发现自己夹在两个世界之间。他们的面部特征显示着一个事 实——他们的亚裔族性——但是，通过教育、选择或出生，他们 是美国人”。（Between Worlds: Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry) Sau-ling Cynthia Wong: “文化不是移民随身携带的一件行李；它 并非静止不动，而是在新的环境中不断地得到修正”。 （Reading Asian American Literature： From Necessity to Extravagance) Summary 谭恩美以其独特的女性笔触，取材于自己或家族 的经历，描写了中国移民妇女与女儿之间复杂的 关系及其背后深刻的中西文化冲突；中国传统的 讲故事叙事模式、灵异神秘的小说气氛，以及别 出新意的幽默语言，都是谭恩美能够赢得读者， 获得成功的重要因素。（《海外华人女作家述 评》，第78页。 More information: similarity between Amy Tan‘s life and that of her characters.