Amy Tan: Biography

Amy Tan

19 feb 1952

Amy Tan was a late-starter in writing, with her first book published at the age of 33, after a career in freelance business writing. Nevertheless, that first effort, titled The Joy Luck Club, became a critical and commercial success. Published in 1989, this collection of interrelated short stories deals with four Chinese-American mothers and their daughters. This subject matter is a direct reflection of the difficult experience Amy Tan’s own mother had in her emigration from China. Since its publication, The Joy Luck Club has been a New York Times bestseller, translated into 35 languages, and adapted into a successful movie in 1993.

Amy Tan was born to a Chinese immigrant mother, and a Baptist minister father in 1952. She says that both her father’s ‘Holy Ghost religion’ and her mother’s ‘Chinese ghosts’ heritage have influenced her life and writing. Both Amy Tan’s brother and father died of a brain tumour within 8 months of each other when Amy Tan was 15 years old, and her mother moved the family to Switzerland. Amy Tan returned to America, however, to study a Bachelors, and then Masters, degree in English and Linguistics from San Jose State University.

In addition to The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan has written 6 novels, two children’s books, and a number of works of non-fiction essays. She has also written the libretto for the opera The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

In 1974, Amy Tan met her husband, whom she then married later that same year. They have been married for over thirty years, and, though they have no children, they care for 5 dogs. Amy Tan is a member of the self-described ‘literary garage band’ Rock Bottom Remainders, whose members include a number of well-known authors, including Stephen King and Matt Groening.