The Joy Luck Club: Wikis


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The Joy Luck Club  
First edition cover
Author Amy Tan
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 1989
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages 288 pp
ISBN 0-399-13420-4
OCLC Number 18464018
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3570.A48 J6 1989

The Joy Luck Club (1989) is a best-selling novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families who start a club known as "the Joy Luck Club," playing the Chinese game of Mahjong for money while feasting on a variety of foods. The book is structured somewhat like a mahjong game, with four parts divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters. The three mothers and four daughters (one mother, Suyuan Woo, dies before the novel opens) share stories about their lives in the form of vignettes. Each part is preceded by a parable.

In 1993, the novel was adapted into a feature film directed by Wayne Wang and starring Ming-Na, Lauren Tom, Tamlyn Tomita, France Nuyen, Rosalind Chao, Kieu Chinh, Tsai Chin, Lisa Lu, and Vivian Wu. The screenplay was written by the author Amy Tan along with Ronald Bass. The novel was also adapted into a play, by Susan Kim, which premiered at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in New York.





  • Suyuan Woo
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Suyuan lives in Kweilin while her husband at the time served as an officer in Chungking (Chongqing). She starts the original Joy Luck Club with her three friends to cope with the war. There is little to eat, but they pretend it is a feast, and talk about their hopes for the future. On the day of the Japanese invasion, Suyuan leaves her house with nothing but a bag of clothes, a bag of food, and her twin baby daughters.
During the long journey, Suyuan contracts such severe dysentery that she feels certain she will die. Fearing that a dead mother would doom her babies' chances of rescue, she reluctantly and emotionally leaves her daughters under a barren tree, together with all her belongings, along with a note asking anyone who might find the babies to care for them and contact the father. Suyuan then departs, expecting to die. However, she is rescued by a truck and finds out her husband has died. She later remarries, comes to America, forms a new Joy Luck Club with three other Chinese female immigrants she met at church, and gives birth to another daughter. But her abandonment of the twin girls haunts her for the rest of her life. After many years, Suyuan learns that the twins were adopted, but dies of a brain aneurysm before she can meet them. It is her American-born daughter Jing-mei who fulfills her long-cherished wish of reuniting with her elder twin half-sisters.
As Suyuan dies before the novel begins, her history is told by Jing-mei, based on her knowledge of her mother's stories, anecdotes from her father, and what the other members of the Joy Luck Club tell her.
  • An-Mei Hsu
An-Mei is raised by her grandparents and other relatives during her early years in Ningbo after her widowed mother shocks the family by becoming a concubine to a middle-aged wealthy man after her first husband's death. This becomes a source of conflict for the young An-Mei, as her aunts and uncles deeply resent her mother for such a dishonorable act. They try to convince An-Mei that she is not fit to live with her disgraced mother, who is now forbidden to enter the family home. An-Mei's mother, however, still wishes to be part of her daughter's life. After An-Mei's grandmother dies, An-mei moves out to live with her mother in the home of her mother's new husband, Wu-Tsing.
An-Mei learns that her mother was coerced into being Wu-Tsing's concubine through the manipulations of his Second Wife, the favorite. This woman arranged for An-Mei's mother, still in mourning for her original husband, to be raped by Wu-Tsing. The stigma left An-Mei's mother with no choice but to marry Wu-Tsing and become his new but lowly Fourth Wife. She later lost her baby son to Second Wife, who claimed the boy as her own child to ensure her place in the household. Second Wife also tried to win over An-mei upon her arrival in Wu-Tsing's mansion, giving her a necklace made of "pearls" that her mother later revealed were actually glass beads by crushing one with her foot.
Wu-Tsing is a highly superstitious man, and Second Wife took advantage of this weakness by making false suicide attempts and threatening to haunt him as a ghost if he did not let her have her way. According to Chinese tradition, a person's soul comes back after three days to settle scores with the living. Wu-Tsing, therefore, is known to be afraid to face the ghost of an angry or scorned wife. After Second Wife faked a suicide attempt to prevent An-Mei and her mother from getting their own small house, An-Mei's mother successfully committed suicide herself. She timed her death so that her soul would be due to return on the first day of the new year, a day when all debts must be settled lest the debtor suffer great misfortune. With this in mind, Wu-Tsing promised to treat his Fourth Wife's children, including An-Mei, as if they were his very own flesh and blood by an honored First Wife. When Second Wife attempted to disrupt this, An-Mei crushed the fake pearl necklace Second Wife gave beneath her feet to show her awareness of all the deception and to symbolize her new power over Second Wife, who now fears and realizes the bad karma she brought upon herself.
An-Mei later immigrates to America, marries, and gives birth to seven children. The youngest, Bing, drowns at age four.
  • Lindo Jong
Lindo is a strong-willed woman, a trait that her daughter Waverly attributes to her having been born in the year of the Horse. When Lindo was only twelve, she was forced to move in with a neighbor's young son, Huang Tyan-yu, through the machinations of the village matchmaker. After some training for household duties through her in-laws, she and Tyan-yu married when she turned sixteen. She soon realized that her husband was just a little boy at heart and had no sexual interest in her. Lindo began to care for her husband as a brother, but her cruel mother-in-law expected Lindo to produce a grandson. She restricted most of Lindo's daily activities, eventually ordering her to remain on bed rest until she could conceive and deliver a child.
Determined to escape this unfortunate situation, Lindo carefully observed the other people in the household and eventually formed a clever plan to escape her marriage without dishonoring herself or her family. She managed to trick her young husband's family that he was actually fated to marry another girl who was already pregnant with his "spiritual child", and that her marriage to Huang Tyan Yu would only bring bad luck to the family. In reality, the girl in question was a mere servant in the household and indeed pregnant, but abandoned by her lover.
Freed of her first marriage, Lindo decided to emigrate to America. She married a Chinese-American man named Tin Jong and has three children: sons Winston and Vincent, and daughter Waverly.
Lindo experiences regret over losing some of her Chinese identity by living so long in America (she is treated like a tourist on a visit to China), however she expresses concern that Waverly's American upbringing has caused a barrier between them.
  • Ying-Ying "Betty" St. Clair
From a young age, Ying-Ying is told by her wealthy and conservative family that Chinese girls should be meek and gentle. This is especially difficult for her, she feels, because she is a Tiger character. She begins to develop a passive personality and repress her feelings as she grows up in Wuxi. Ying-Ying marries a charismatic man named Lin Xiao, not out of love, but because she believed it was her fate. Her husband is revealed to be abusive and openly has extramarital relationships with other women. When Ying-Ying discovers she is pregnant, she gets an abortion and makes the decision to live with her relatives in a smaller city in China.
After ten years, she moves to Shanghai and works in a clothing store, where she meets an American man named Clifford St. Clair. He falls in love with her, but Ying-Ying cannot express any strong emotion after her first marriage. He courts her for four years before she agrees to marry him after learning that Lin Xiao had died, which she takes as the proper sign to move on. She allows Clifford to control most aspects of her life, mistranslating her words and actions, and even changing her name to "Betty". Ying-Ying gives birth to her daughter, Lena, after moving to San Francisco with St. Clair. When Lena is around ten years old, Ying-Ying becomes pregnant a third time, but the baby boy is anencephalic and soon dies.
Ying-Ying is horrified when she realizes that Lena, a Tiger like herself, has inherited or emulated her passive behaviors and trapped herself in a loveless marriage with a controlling husband. She finally resolves to call upon the more assertive qualities of her Tiger nature, to appeal to those qualities in Lena. She will tell Lena her story in the hope that she will be able to break free from the same passivity that ruined most of her young life back in China.


  • Jing-Mei "June" Woo
Jing-Mei has never fully understood her mother and seems directionless in life. During June's childhood, her mother used to tell her that she could be anything she wants; however, she particularly wanted her daughter to be gifted, a child star who amazes the world, like Ginny Tiu (seen briefly on television) or June's rival Waverly. At the beginning of the novel, June is chosen to replace her mother's seat in the Joy Luck Club after her mother's death. At the end of the novel, June is still trying to deal with her mother's death, and she visits China to see the twin half-sisters whom her mother had been forced to abandon when the Japanese attacked China.
  • Rose Hsu Jordan
Rose is somewhat passive and is a bit of a perfectionist. She had an unsettling childhood experience when her youngest brother, Bing, drowned while she was supposed to be watching him and his body was never recovered. Rose marries a doctor, Ted Jordan, who really loved her but also wanted to spite his unthinkingly racist mother. After a malpractice suit, Ted has a mid-life crisis and decides to leave Rose. Rose confides in her mother and An-mei tells her the story of her own childhood. When Ted comes for the divorce papers, Rose finds her voice and tells him that he can't just throw her out of his life, comparing herself to his garden, once so beloved, now unkempt and full of weeds. She wants to hire a good lawyer and fight for possession of the house, which she eventually wins.
  • Waverly Jong
Waverly is an independent-minded and intelligent woman, but is annoyed by her mother's constant criticism. Well into her adult life, she finds herself restrained by her subconscious fear of letting her mother down. During their childhood, June and Waverly become childhood rivals; their mothers constantly compared their daughter's development and accomplishments. Waverly was once a gifted chess champion, but quit after realizing her mother was using her daughter's talent to show off, taking credit for Waverly's wins. She has a daughter, Shoshana, from her first marriage, and is currently engaged to her boyfriend Rich.
  • Lena St. Clair
Throughout Lena's childhood, she gradually becomes her mother's voice and interprets her mother's Chinese words for others. Like her dad Clifford, she translates Ying-ying's words to sound more pleasant than what Ying-ying actually says. Ying-ying has taught Lena to beware of consequences, to the extent that Lena visualizes disaster in the taking of any risk. Lena's husband, Harold, is also her boss. He takes the credit for Lena's business and design ideas. He demands financial "equality" in their marriage. Lena is an associate while Harold is a partner, so he has a larger salary than she does. However, he insists that all household expenses be divided equally between them. Harold believes that by making everything equal, they can make their love equal as well. Lena feels frustrated and powerless.

For more information on the book please refer to

Table of contents

(Name of chapter is followed by the name of the narrator whose perspective is used for that chapter)

Feathers from a Thousand Li Away

  • "The Joy Luck Club," Jing-mei "June" Woo
  • "Scar," An-Mei Hsu
  • "The Red Candle," Lindo Jong
  • "The Moon Lady," Ying-Ying St. Clair

The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates

  • "Rules of the Game," Waverly Jong
  • "The Voice from the Wall," Lena St. Clair
  • "Half and Half," Rose Hsu Jordan
  • "Two Kinds," Jing-mei "June" Woo

American Translation

  • "Rice Husband," Lena St. Clair
  • "Four Directions," Waverly Jong
  • "Without Wood," Rose Hsu Jordan
  • "Best Quality," Jing-mei "June" Woo

Queen Mother of the Western Skies

  • "Magpies," An-mei Hsu
  • "Waiting Between the Trees," Ying-Ying St. Clair
  • "Double Face," Lindo Jong
  • "A Pair of Tickets," Jing-mei "June" Woo


Though Amy Tan's book has been widely praised by critics, it has also been criticized by noted Chinese-American author Frank Chin for allegedly perpetuating racist stereotypes.[1][2][3] Chinese-American director Wayne Wang was impressed with the story and managed to create a film version of the novel.[4]


External links


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