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At a Glance

Born in 1952 to Chinese immigrant parents, Amy Tan grew up in Northern California. Tans
mother (the subject of her second novel, The Kitchen Gods Wife) suffered at the hands of a
brutal husband whom she eventually divorced. Sadly, she was forced to leave her three
daughters behind in China. Tan and her siblings were from her mothers second marriage in
the States. Tans first book, The Joy Luck Club, was a phenomenal critical and popular
success. In most of her works, she deals unflinchingly with the dynamics of mother/daughter
relationships, finding a way to respect the past but live in the present, and to retain a sense of
identity for her characters as they attempt to balance the yin and the yang of their Chinese
and American selves.

Facts and Trivia

Defying her mothers wishes, Tan left the premedical program she had been enrolled
in and switched her major to English and linguistics. She graduated with both a bachelors
and a masters degree from San Jose State University in 1974.
Although she enrolled in a doctoral program, Tan decided to take a job working with
mentally challenged children in Alameda, California. She also developed a program for
developmentally disabled children during this time.
Before permanently turning to fiction writing, Amy Tan tried her hand at technical
When her mother fell ill and seemed near death, Tan promised that she would take her
to China to find the daughters her mother was forced to abandon decades earlier. They were
reunited, and Tan credits this meeting with helping her see her mother in a new light.
Amy Tan is a musician in a band called The Rock Bottom Remainders (remainders
are the books that do not sell and become clearance bin fodder). The other members of the
band include humourist Dave Barry, authors Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver,
and Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
- Scott Locklear.

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Amy Tan Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Amy Tan (given the Chinese name of An-Mei, or Blessing from America) was the second
of three children born to Chinese immigrants John and Daisy Tan. Her father, educated as an
electrical engineer in Beijing, became a Baptist minister. Daisy, child of a privileged family,
was forced to leave behind three daughters from a previous marriage when she fled
Communist troops.

Tans older brother died in 1967 and her father six months later, both of brain tumours. This
began a troubled time for her. At fifteen, she moved to Europe with her mother and younger
brother, was arrested for drugs in Switzerland at sixteen, and nearly eloped to Austria with a
German army deserter.
Daisy Tan wanted her daughter to be a neurosurgeon and a concert pianist, but Tan felt she
could not live up to her mothers expectations. Although her test scores were highest in math
and science, she left premedical studies to become an English major. In 1974, she earned a
masters degree in linguistics from San Jose State University and married tax attorney Lou
DeMattei. She began doctoral studies at the University of California at Berkeley but, after a
close friend and roommate was murdered, she dropped out to become a consultant to
programs for disabled children. Later she served as reporter, editor, and publisher
for Emergency Room Reports.

Tan became a freelance business writer in 1983. She wrote sales manuals and proposals for
such firms as American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), International Business Machines
(IBM), and Apple, and by 1985 was working up to ninety hours a week. Her business writing
paid well, and she could choose her projects, but, she has said, It was death to me spiritually.
It was writing that had no meaning to me.

She sought therapy, but Tan was discouraged when her psychiatrist fell asleep during her
sessions. Instead, she decided to cut her work week to fifty hours, study jazz piano, and write
fiction in her spare time. She had just read novelist Louise Erdrichs Love Medicine (1984),
interwoven stories of an...

(The entire section is 856 words.)

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More Content: Biography (hide)

1. Masterpieces of American Literature

2. Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces

3. Survey of Novels and Novellas

4. Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature

5. Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition

6. Novels for Students (Volume 1)

7. Short Stories for Students (Volume 9)

8. Novels for Students (Volume 13)

9. Short Stories for Students (Volume 16)

10. Insights

Tans books, which have been published in more than twenty-five languages, are chiefly
concerned with the troubled relationships and the conflicts of love between mothers and
daughters who are separated by different cultures as well as by generations. She also covers a
wide spectrum of lives and customs of Chinese women up until the post war Cultural
Revolution, and she examines the concepts of fate, luck, and choice. Although Tan does not
consider herself a spokeswoman for Chinese Americans, her writing has awakened further
interest in the Chinese American perspective in American literature.

Amy Tan Biography (Literary Essentials: Short

Fiction Masterpieces)
Amy Ruth Tan was born in Oakland, California, on February 19, 1952, the middle child (and
only daughter) of John Yuehhan and Daisy Tu Ching Tan, who had emigrated from China.
Her father was an electrical engineer in China, but he became a minister in the United States.
The family moved frequently, finally settling in Santa Clara, California. After the death of her
husband and older son when Amy was fifteen years old, Daisy took the family to Switzerland
and enrolled her children in schools there, but she returned to California in 1969.

Tans parents hoped she would become a physician and concert pianist. She began a
premedical course of study but switched to English and linguistics, much to her mothers
dismay. She received her B.A. in 1973 and her M.A. in 1974 from San Jose State University.
She attended the University of California, Berkeley, from 1974 to 1976, beginning studies
toward a doctorate. In 1974, she married Louis M. DeMattei, a tax attorney; they settled in
San Francisco.

Tan was a language consultant, a reporter, a managing editor, and a freelance technical writer
before she turned to fiction writing. She joined a writing workshop in 1985 and submitted a
story about a Chinese American chess prodigy. The revised version was first published in a
small literary magazine and reprinted in Seventeen magazine as Rules of the Game. When
Tan learned that the story had appeared in Italy and had been translated without her
knowledge, she obtained an agent, Sandra Dijkstra, to help handle publication. Although Tan
had written only three stories at that time, Dijkstra encouraged her to write a book. At her
suggestion, Tan submitted an outline for a book of stories and then went on a trip to China
with her mother. On her return, she learned that her proposal had been accepted by G. P.
Putnams Sons.

Amy Tan Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Amy Ruth Tan was born to Daisy and John Tan, both of whom had emigratedseparately
from China to the United States in the late 1940s. They had met some years earlier but were
separated by two things: Daisy was still married to her first husband, and John left for the
United States, where he intended to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fate
intervenedDaisy was divorced from her abusive husband, and John sent for her. They were
married in California and had three children; Amy was the middle child. Acutely conscious
that she was different from her classmates, Tan recalls pinching her nose with a clothespin in
an effort to reshape that appendage to look more Caucasian. Like her Asian American peers,
Tan was American at school and Chinese at home. Although her mother spoke to her in
Chinese, Tan responded in English. The tensions and conflicts produced by her dual heritage
eventually found their way into her fiction, which often portrays the generational conflicts in
immigrant families.
At fifteen, Tan lost first her older brother and then her father; both died of brain tumors
within months of each other. Her mother reacted by leaving California with the remaining
children, moving first to the East Coast and then to the Netherlands and Germany, and finally
to Switzerland, where Tan graduated from high school.

After returning to the United States, Tan attended several colleges before earning degrees in
English and..

Amy Tan Biography (Society and Self, Critical

Representations in Literature)
Amy Tan was born to parents who emigrated from China to California two years before she
was born, and her work is influenced by the Asian American people and community she knew
in her childhood. Each of her novels features characters who have either emigrated from
China or who, like Tan, are the children of those immigrants. Like many immigrants to the
United States, Tans parents had high expectations for their daughter. Tan writes: I was led to
believe from the age of six that I would grow up to be a neurosurgeon by trade and a concert
pianist by hobby. In her first two novels, especially, Tan writes of the pressures her young
Chinese American characters feel as they try to meet high parental expectations while also
craving a normal carefree childhood.

Tan did not initially plan to be a writer of fiction. She was working long hours as a technical
writer, and sought psychological therapy to help her with her workaholic tendencies. When
she became dissatisfied with her therapist, who sometimes fell asleep during her sessions, she
decided to use fiction writing as her therapy instead.

Tan struggled with her Chinese heritage; as a girl, she contemplated cosmetic surgery to make
her look less Asian. She was ashamed of her cultural identity until she moved with her
mother and brother to Switzerland, where Tan attended high school. There, Asians were a
rarity, and Tan was asked out on dates because she was suddenly exotic.

Experiences from her life find their way into her novels, especially The Joy Luck Club. As do
the characters Rose Hsu and Waverly Jong, Tan experienced the death of a brother. Waverly,
like Tan, is married to a tax attorney of European descent. Tan and her husband, Lou
DeMattei, married in 1974. In fact, several of Tans Chinese American women characters are
married to European American husbands.

Amy Tans novels have all been acclaimed by critics as well-crafted works of fiction and as
keyholes through which the reader can peer into a culture that has seldom been explored in
American literature.

Amy Tan Biography (Great Authors of World

Literature, Critical Edition)
Amy Ruth Tan was born February 19, 1952, in Oakland, California, to John Tan, a minister
and electrical engineer, and Daisy Chan (formerly Tu Ching), a vocational nurse. (Her mother
was also a member of a club like the one depicted in Tans first novel, The Joy Luck Club).
Her parents had moved to the United States from China three years before she was born.
When Tan was fifteen, her father and one of her brothers died; her mother took her and her
younger brother to Switzerland, where Tan finished high school. Later the family returned to
the United States, and Tan attended and graduated from San Jose State University. She
married tax attorney Lou DeMattei.

In spite of her considerable literary success, Amy...To continue reading, start your free trial
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Amy Tan Biography (Novels for Students)

Amy Tan began writing fiction as a distraction from her work as a technical writer. A self-
proclaimed workaholic, Tan wanted to find a way to...

Amy Tan Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Amy Tan was born in 1952 in Oakland, California, to Daisy and John Tan. Her Chinese
name, An-Mei, meansBlessing from America,...

Amy Tan Biography (Novels for Students)

Amy Tan was born in 1952 to first-generation Chinese- American parents. At her birth, Tan
was given the Chinese name An-Mei, meaning...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

To continue reading, start your free trial with eNotes

Amy Tan Biography (Short Stories for Students)

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Tan was born on February 19, 1952, in Oakland, California, two and a half years after her
parents emigrated from China. Her father was...

(The entire section is 325 words.)