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In her Auntie An-mei’s home,
Jing-Mei reluctantly takes her seat
at the eastern corner of the mahjong table.
At the north, south, and west corners are her aunties,
long-time members of the Joy Luck Club.
This group of immigrant families comes together weekly to trade gossip,
feast on wonton and sweet chaswei, and play mahjong.
However, the club’s founder, Jing-Mei’s mother Suyuan, has recently passed away.
At first, Jing-Mei struggles to fill her place at the table.
But when her aunties reveal a deeply buried secret about Suyuan’s life,
Jing-Mei realizes she still has a lot to learn about her mother, and herself.
In Amy Tan’s 1989 debut novel, "The Joy Luck Club,"
this gathering at the mahjong table is the point of departure
for a series of interconnected vignettes.
The book itself is loosely structured to imitate the format of the Chinese game.
Just as mahjong is played over four rounds with at least four hands each,
the book is divided into four parts, each with four chapters.
Alternately set in China or San Francisco,
each chapter narrates a single story from one of the four matriarchs
of the Joy Luck Club or their American-born daughters.
These stories take the reader through war zones
and villages of rural China, and into modern marriages
and tense gatherings around the dinner table.
They touch upon themes of survival and loss, love and the lack of it,
ambitions and their unsatisfied reality.
In one, Auntie Lin plots an escape from the hostile family
of her promised husband,
ultimately leading to her arrival in America.
In another, the Hsu family’s all-American day at the beach turns dire
when Rose is overwhelmed by the responsibility her mother assigns to her.
The resulting tragedy traumatizes the family for years to come.
These tales illustrate the common divides that can form
between generations and cultures, especially in immigrant families.
The mothers have all experienced great hardships during their lives in China,
and they’ve worked tirelessly to give their children
better opportunities in America.
But their daughters feel weighed down by their parent’s unfulfilled hopes
and high expectations.
Jing-Mei feels this pressure as she plays mahjong with her mother’s friends.
She worries, “In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant,
just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America.”
Time and again,
the mothers strive to remind their daughters of their history and heritage.
Meanwhile, their daughters struggle to reconcile
their mothers’ perception of them with who they really are.
"Does my daughter know me?" some of the stories ask.
"Why doesn’t my mother understand?" others respond.
In her interrogation of these questions,
Tan speaks to anxieties that plague many immigrants,
who often feel both alienated from their homeland
and disconnected from their adopted country.
But by weaving the tales of these four mothers and daughters together,
Tan makes it clear that Jing-Mei
and her peers find strength to tackle their present-day problems
through the values their mothers passed on to them.
When "The Joy Luck Club" was first published,
Tan expected minimal success.
But against her predictions, the book was a massive critical
and commercial achievement.
Today, these characters still captivate readers worldwide.
Not only for the way they speak to Chinese American
and immigrant experiences,
but also for uncovering a deeper truth:
the need to be seen and understood by the ones you love.


Why should you read “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan? - Sheila Marie Orfano

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林宜悉 2020 年 3 月 20 日 に公開
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