In 1989, Amy Tan published her first novel, The Joy Luck Club. It quickly became a bestseller, gracing the required reading lists of many high school and university classrooms, and becoming adapted into a film in 1993. Since then, she has published four more novels (all bestsellers), a memoir, and two children’s books (one of which was adapted into an Emmy-nominated children’s television show). She did not start writing fiction until she was 33. The Joy Luck Club was published four years later.
I have a soft spot for Amy Tan because, like Joan Didion, she grew up in and around many of the places that I have inhabited (e.g. she was born in Oakland, got her master’s at U.C. Santa Cruz, and dropped out of her U.C. Berkeley Ph.D.). Like Kristen Wiig, she took on a variety of jobs before landing on writing. Like Alice Munro, she fit in writing on the side while working an additional full-time job.
In The Kitchen God’s Wife, she writes “if you can’t change your fate, change your attitude” (pg. 361), but she has proven with her life that, sometimes, it is also possible to change your fate.
Also, she sings backup for a “literary garage band.”
Thank you Amy Tan! You are, quite literally, a rock star.