Born in 1952 in Oakland, California, Amy Tan is a Chinese American novelist, and the tensions surrounding her split/doubled identity occupy a large place in her fiction. She earned a BA degree from San Jose State University in 1973, an MA degree in linguistics in 1974, and went on to do postgraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1974 until 1976. She worked as a freelance technical writer before she moved to short stories and, finally, her first novel, the award-winning The Joy Luck Club in 1989. Her startling success with The Joy Luck Club was almost immediately followed by The Kitchen God's Wife in 1991. In 1993, Tan coauthored the screen play for the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and in 1995, her third novel, The Hundred Secret Senses, was published. She has written two children's books, both illustrated by Gretchen Schields, The Moon Lady (1992) and The Chinese Siamese Cat (1994). In 2001, Tan published another novel centered on the theme of generational conflicts, The Bonesetter's Daughter. In 2003, Tan's first nonfiction work, The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, met with an audience eager to see the woman behind the fiction. Tan has found a consistent and appreciative audience both in popular and critical circles, and though her first two novels have become standard fare in many college courses, it is The Joy Luck Club that has garnered the larger audience. Tan came upon the strategy for The Joy Luck Club in 1985 when she read Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and recognized that her pattern of multiple voices and tangled narrative would be well suited to her own cross-generational saga.
Tan comments freely on the position in which she is often placed—that of a representative for Chinese culture. The role is “an onerous burden.… There's also a danger in balkanizing literature, as if it should be read as sociology, or politics.” She further comments that she does not write “about cultural