The Joy Luck Club, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1989, presents the stories of four Chinese-immigrant women and their American-born daughters. Each of the four Chinese women has her own view of the world based on her experiences in China and wants to share that vision with her daughter. The daughters try to understand and appreciate their mothers’ pasts, adapt to the American way of life, and win their mothers’ acceptance. The book’s name comes from the club formed in China by one of the mothers, Suyuan Woo, in order to lift her friends’ spirits and distract them from their problems during the Japanese invasion. Suyuan continued the club when she came to the United States -hoping to bring luck to her family and friends and finding joy in that hope.
Amy Tan wrote The Joy Luck Club to try to understand her own relationship with her mother. Tan’s Chinese parents wanted Americanized children but expected them to think like Chinese. Tan found this particularly difficult as an adolescent. While the generational differences were like those experienced by other mothers and daughters, the cultural distinctions added another dimension. Thus, Tan wrote not only to sort out her cultural heritage but to learn how she and her mother could get along better.
Critics appreciate Tan’s straightforward manner as well as the skill with which she talks about Chinese culture and mother/daughter relationships. Readers also love The Joy Luck Club: women of all ages identify with Tan’s characters and their conflicts with their families, while men have an opportunity through this novel to better understand their own behaviors towards women. Any reader can appreciate Tan’s humor, fairness, and objectivity.