This month the BrownBaggers discussed JMRL’s 2013 Big Read title: Any Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club.” We began our meeting by watching a film in which Amy Tan talks about writing her book. This film is available at the Big Read website. There are 2 versions of the film; we watched the short version so we would have time to chat.
Our discussion dealt mainly with the major theme, a timely one, of this book of overlapping stories: the immigrant experience. Everyone in the group could tell a story like that of themselves or someone they know. It is the American story. “Joy Luck” reminded us of another book that we enjoyed in February 2012, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Both books delved into relationships of first and second generation Chinese dealing with their different attitudes toward American culture.
In “Joy Luck” the stories are about women. The men are either banal or evil. Most of us were confused by the overlapping stories of daughters and mothers who all had difficult names but similar stories. A number of comments came out of this confusion: 1. Maybe, because women of a certain era in Chinese society were treated as nonentities, they all blended together in reality. 2. Since the stories were mainly about Amy Tan and her mother, she should have stuck with that as the only story.
Another theme we mentioned from “Joy Luck” is that of hope vs expectations. Hope seems less active than expectation – at least in the lives of these characters. Mothers and daughters in the book had difficulty relating as the mothers expected so much more for and from their daughters who were in the more open American culture, a culture so different from that in which the mothers grew up, and they worked very hard to assure their daughters’ success. It was painful to read about the mothers’ disappointments as their American daughters didn’t grow up to be prodigies or wealthy as their mothers expected and hoped. The pain was for both mothers and daughters. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” came up briefly at this point. This made sense to those who have read it.
This is the last week of JMRL’s Big Read programming. Hope you enjoyed some of this annual event.
~ The Reluctant Blogger