The Kitchen God's Wife : Biography
Best-selling author Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California, on February 19, 1952. Her Chinese-born parents, John and Daisy Tan, had each come to America to escape civil war and communist rule in China, and while they tried to preserve many Chinese traditions, they also expected Amy and her two brothers to make the most of their American upbringing. Amy, they hoped, would become a neurosurgeon.
Instead, Amy Tan had other plans. She became an English major at San Jose State and for a time studied linguistics in graduate school at the University of California in San Jose, then in Berkeley. She and her college boyfriend, Louis DeMattei, were married in 1974. Tan eventually became a language consultant and worked with developmentally disabled children. She later switched gears to become a successful freelance technical writer—and a workaholic. After seeking counseling to cure her workaholic tendencies, she turned to playing music (jazz piano) and writing fiction to relax and channel her creative energy. She first short story, “Endgame,” gained her admission in the prestigious Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop; further stories gained the attention of literary agent Sandra Dijkstra. After a trip to China in 1987 with her mother, Tan wrote the stories about mother-daughter relationships that became her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, published in 1989.
The critical success of The Joy Luck Club convinced Tan that she had found a new career as a fiction writer. She went on to write other best-selling novels: The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991), The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2001), and Saving Fish from Drowning (2005), as well as two children’s books. Her autobiography, The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings was published in 2003.
Tan’s novels, described as lyrical and bittersweet, deal with the generational and cultural gaps between Chinese-born women and their American-born daughters. Many of her novels are based on Tan’s own experiences. Like Pearl in The Kitchen God’s Wife, Tan lost her father, a Baptist minister, when she was a teenager, and she did not get along with her mother, whom she later learned had been married to an abusive man in China and forced to abandon her three daughters in order to escape China before the Communist takeover. Like the daughters in The Joy Luck Club, she also learned to value her Chinese heritage and to appreciate the lessons of resilience and hope that older Chinese women were trying to pass on to younger generations of women.
Tan’s other works include essays and stories that have been published in various magazines and journals. The Joy Luck Club was made into a movie in 1993, and Tan served as both co-producer and co-screenwriter for the production. Tan was also the writer and creative consultant for PBS’s production of Sagwa, a TV show based on Tan’s children’s book about her Siamese cat, Sagwa.