AMY TAN was born in Oakland, California, on February 19, 1952, to John and Daisy Tan, both first-generation Chinese immigrants. Her father, a minister and electrical engineer, and her mother, a vocational nurse, were forced to leave behind three other daughters in China when they emigrated to the United States. The eruption of the Communist Revolution destroyed not only all hope of sending for the girls but also any means of contact with them. Between Tan's 15th and 16th birthdays, the family's burden of loss intensified with the deaths of both her older brother and her father from brain tumors. Her mother fled from the site of this emotional devastation to Switzerland with her remaining children. This grief, experienced so early in life, later becomes a recurring element in Tan's novels.
Returning to the United States as a young woman, Tan earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English and linguistics at San Jose State University, where she also met her future husband, Lou DeMattei.In 1976, she dropped out of the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, devastated by the murder of a close friend. For the next three years, she worked as a language specialist with disabled children and as a freelance medical and technical writer. An admitted workaholic, Tan joined the Squaw Valley Community of Writers with the simple intention of developing a hobby, but out of her early efforts grew her first novel, The Joy Luck Club.
Published in 1989, The Joy Luck Club was enthusiastically recieved by critics and the public. Autobiographical strands are woven throughout the text, in which interlocking vignettes portray the generational and cultural differences between American-born daughters and their Chinese-born mothers. Though Tan was criticized by some for co-opting Chinese-American culture, most critics professed her uncommon command of language and storytelling a rarity among first-time authors. The Joy Luck Club landed on the New York Times best‐ seller list for nine months, and then Hollywood brought the story to an even larger audience. Produced by Oliver Stone, directed by Wayne Wang, and with a screenplay cowritten by Tan, the film version was both a critical and commercial achievement and notable for its Asian and Asian-American cast.
In 1991, Tan published her second novel, The Kitchen God's Wife, a gripping, bittersweet story about a young woman searching for greater understanding of her Chinese mother's background. The novel