Monday, September 14, 2009

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan


I think there was a movie adaptation of this book wasn't there? Seems to me I saw the previews and wanted to see it, but the movie rating was verboten for me at the time...so I just figured eventually I'd read the book. It's taken me a while to get around to it.

Imagine four women, all immigrants from China, gathering every so often to play mah jong and chat and eat dinner. They've raised children in the United States, tried their best to learn English and adapt to American customs but are proud of their heritage and do their best to pass on the best of that heritage on.

The daughters of these women experience not only a generation gap but a culture gap when dealing with their mothers; so many expectations, so many misunderstood intentions, so many yearnings to connect but never quite achieving it, leaving a rent in the fabric of their relationships.

Digging down past the cultural difference, there is the theme of mothers wanting their daughters to have lives without some of the hardships they faced, to live up to their potential, but their daughters see criticism, disappointment, or disdain when they feel their mothers' desires are paramount. In some of the stories, the daughters begin to catch on, a little bit, once they are grown. I can see that in my own life. Mom sometimes DID know what she was talking about.

There are sensitive topics in the book, and some heart-wrenching choices that are made, which might not be appropriate for young teens. Older teens would benefit from a discussion with parents about choices, consequences, and the importance of communication within families.

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