On My Bookshelf

“How can she think she can blend in?  Only her skin and her hair are Chinese.  Inside—she is all American-made.” 

Character Lindo Jong uses these words in a chapter entitled “Double Face”—part of Amy Tan’s epic novel The Joy Luck Club—to describe the feeling that her daughter, Waverly Jong, is Chinese in appearance only, and that her actions and beliefs have become so Americanized that they’ve been rendered unrecognizable to her.  Throughout the novel, we bear witness to the fact that each of the main characters within the story balances her ideas of what American and Chinese cultures are supposed to entail, and about whether her counterpart within the mother/daughter duo fulfills her respective role within both cultures. In this and other chapters throughout the work, the reader sees the interplay between folklore and real life, and how the two interact to provide textuality to what has become each woman’s daily existence.  Through this, the reader learns more about each character’s background, thereby gaining insight on the experiences that have come to color each woman’s outlook on life.

Lindo’s quote, taken from a scene that occurs late in the novel, weighs heavily on my mind as I sit and reflect on this awesome read.  Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, as a whole, teaches us lessons about community and individuality, faithlessness and hope, love and sacrifice.  While reading it, be sure to pay special attention to such symbols as might represent love, success or longevity, as they might be hard to recognize for readers with little to no knowledge of Chinese folklore or symbolism.    I recommend this novel to all readers, based on its ability to entertain as well as to enthrall, and based on its ability to bring about the full spectrum of emotions in virtually anyone that dares to read it. 

Those interested in this epic novel should also check out the 1993 film by the same name, which stars Tamlyn Tomita as Waverly, Tsai Chin as Lindo, and Kieu Chinh as the late Suyuan Woo.   Both the book and the film are available for checkout via your neighborhood library.

'Til next month!