Questions and Topics for Discussion
At midnight, they ate dim sum, and sometimes we were allowed to have a late snack with them. Having grown up with the real Joy Luck Club, I thought the name was unremarkable.
This was when few people knew what feng shui meant, and my agent thought Wind and Water was both esoteric and precious. Lucky for me. The church serves as a meeting place for many immigrants, a place where they can take English classes and where their children are given Christmas presents. China is not a traditionally Christian nation, but when the characters go to the church, the issue of religion does not become problematic.
What are your thoughts on the many Chinese immigrants to the United States who have become Christians? And what of those who have not?
Do you feel that there is any tension between the spiritual beliefs that are important in Chinese culture as opposed to those dominant in Western Christian doctrine? Christianity has a long history in China and found a lot of compatibility with the poor. And it also had a role in rebellions by the poor, in particular during the Taiping Rebellion and Boxer Uprising. It is an evangelistic religion that seeks to convert the ignorant and nonbelievers. This is unlike the goals of other religions, such as Judaism or Buddhism. On the Tan side of my family, my great-grandfather, who did not come from a wealthy family, was able to receive an education at a missionary school, where he learned to read, write, and speak English.
Being a Christian did not prevent people from keeping other Chinese traditions, such as praying to ancestors. Yet she was my great-grandmother, and the son she bore was my grandfather. He also was educated in a Christian school. My grandfather continued the tradition and passed along both his linguistic skills and his religious fervor to his fourteen children, the oldest of which was my father.
They also helped maintain the Tan family temple, the building where the family prayed to our ancestors—or perhaps they now prayed for them. With help from Baptist missionaries, my father was able to come to the States, where he enrolled in the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School and became minister of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno. Because of financial need, he eventually returned to his original profession as an electrical engineer but continued to devote his spare time to the ministry.
My mother was not raised as a Christian, but she grew up in Shanghai, where it was not unusual for people to have contact with Westerners and Christian beliefs. Both Shanghai and Beijing had been divided into foreign concessions, and my mother lived in the French Concession in a yang fang yuan , a foreign garden house, meaning Western in style. She was raised without any religion in particular, but had the motley beliefs common to many of the well-to-do of her generation, that is, rituals for showing respect to ancestors, a fear of unhappy ghosts for some reason ghosts were never happy , and a belief in reincarnation, which could explain a lot of things, like curses, fate, and acceptance of your bad circumstances.
At times my mother believed I was a reincarnation of someone she had wronged, and I had come back as karmic revenge to make her life miserable. The Joy Luck Club was first published in How has your perspective on the book changed over the intervening seventeen years? Which characters or stories have remained most vivid in your mind? Is there anything that you would change about the book if you could? The book exists for me in its own time capsule.
It contains the circumstances that led me to write it.
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In many ways, it is an intimate diary of my ordinary thoughts and strange obsessions, all of which were absorbed into the writing of the book. So there is nothing I would change. I feel that way about each book. They all exist for their particular reasons. Sometimes I think my grandmother, who had no voice of her own, paved the way with a lot of lucky coincidences so that I would become a writer and give voice to what had happened to her. All four of the daughters in this book have ended up unlucky in love in one way or another—Jing-mei is still single at forty, Waverly is about to get married for the second time, and both Rose and Lena are on the verge of divorce.
Most of them have also married Caucasian American men, and there is a good deal of tension between their parents especially the mothers and their spouses.fensterstudio.ru/components/pumedejij/fefo-como-rastrear-mi.php
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What made you decide to have all of the girls marry white men? What were your intentions when you created those unions? Were you influenced by any couples you have known or relationships you have personally experienced? My intentions in writing stories are always personal. Before I was published I never felt the self-consciousness that results from an unknown public reading my stories.
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It did not occur to me that the details of the story might raise questions about what was being represented as a larger sociological phenomenon about mixed marriages. So what I wrote was only based on the familiar. My husband is not Chinese. Among my American-born Chinese friends and relatives, all of them married a non-Chinese. People might say this is proof that we American-born Chinese believed white people were more desirable.
I think the choice of white men or white women as spouses was related more to opportunity, the opportunity to meet a lot of Caucasians and the few opportunities to meet other Chinese people. The only Chinese boys I knew when I was growing up were my brothers, my cousins, and the boys I babysat while their parents played mahjong with mine.
By the time I was in junior high school, we lived in the suburbs where there were no Asians. Even in college, there were only two Asians, and one became a good friend. He and I used to joke that we were supposed to marry one another because we were Asian.
I met my future husband in my freshman year, so that was the end of my dating career. She knew I would not be able to meet too many Chinese boys, and she never voiced disappointment that Lou was not Chinese.
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As with my mother, the concerns had more to do with whether the man truly respected and cared for the daughter. My mother, for example, wanted Lou to prove his love for me by standing up to his parents when they suggested we break things off. She told him to buy me a piano so that I could put to work those fifteen years of piano lessons, and also to make Lou think twice about ever leaving me; that would also mean leaving behind a very expensive piano. Her methods of ensuring a long-lasting marriage must work, because Lou and I are still together after thirty-six years.
Like the mothers in the stories, my mother had a suspicious view of all men that was drawn from experience. Her mother had been raped, forced to become a concubine, and she later killed herself to escape. My mother was married off to a bad man, who lied, gambled, cheated, and flaunted his infidelities by bringing other women home.
He also raped little girls. What kind of book would result if Jing-mei, Rose, Lena, and Waverly were telling their stories to their daughters?
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What are your thoughts on the next generation of Chinese American women coming of age? I have not thought about the first question. But in this new generation of stories, the daughters-now-mothers would realize they have not given their kids what is necessary, especially when their daughters fall into crisis, for example, when they nearly overdose on drugs, or when they drop out of school and fall into depression, or when they are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, or when they are attacked by a sexual predator, or when they, in an instance of road rage, hit a bicyclist and are charged with a crime.
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The mothers will then tell their daughters stories about their family—from great-grandmothers to grandmothers to themselves, and the stories will be about those times when we are lost, when we have lost who matters and what matters. The stories will be about the family and what it has already faced generations ago, how it has survived many times, no matter what the circumstances given or chosen for us. And the reasons they have survived have to do with a family inheritance of love and hope, and the realization that love and hope are really the same thing.
That is a very complex question and it deserves a longer discussion among many people. Whatever remarks I make here, I hope people will continue with their own thoughts. Some of my past remarks about my discomfort with labels in literature had to do with what was happening fifteen to twenty years ago. In the past, The Joy Luck Club was included on required reading lists because the stories were different from the mainstream and thus would give young readers exposure to another culture.