Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reading History Part VIII: Amy Tan

Part VIII: Amy Tan

Three words. You hear me? Me say three words. Me good American because me say three words. Wah! You no listen? You bad bad daughter! Joy luck club. Well, I'm relieved I can start talking normally now.

Who hasn't heard of Joy Luck Club book and movie that depicts the "struggles" that Chinese women suffered in this mystical and far away place called China? Who hasn't had in their heads about the things these women go through at the hands of these evil and horrid men? Oh, we say sympathetically, clicking our tongues and shaking our heads at the poor immigrants. Those evil men and poor women. We must rescue them from these horrible forced marriages that happen in China. They are free, in America!

First of all I do not mean to make light of immigrant situation. Although my family and I are fortunate, many people are unfortunate, so the sympathy is correct. In China, by the way, only the most ignorant and poor still do forced marriages. Most of Chinese people are cosmopolitan and make decisions on whom to marry.
(There are still family hurdles to get through however...) Also, if you must learn about China, read the books of an author that has lived in China and contains multi-faceted characters. Think of Amy Tan's books for what they are: depiction of China that are on the border of surreal and fantasy with extremely stereotypical China dolls and white knights characters.

Amy Tan had visited China after she wrote The Joy Luck Club. I might have excused her books and might have liked them if she added more dimension to Chinese male characters in subsequent books such The Kitchen God's Wife or Hundred Secret Senses, but instead she doesn't do it. These characters remain completely flat, and whatever goodness the secondary character exhibit is not ones you'll remember long after you finish the novel. (For example, I'm recalling The Kitchen God's wife and the only thing I ever remember is the husband's atrocities to the wife, and just barely I remembered the friend of the wife who married a good husband.)

The Joy Luck Club movie wasn't interesting in my opinion and a tad bit predictable. They ignore some stories while placing others in a spotlight. The acting within the movie wasn't touching or real but felt forced. Throughout the movie I couldn't help but think "okay, so this segment is from there," and so on. The way they incorporated the swan feather in the movie was also interesting, but again the movie is boring and felt fake somehow. I didn't like that one of the women was married to a much much older Asian gentleman, and that they guy was clueless. I wonder why they didn't include these woman's stories of why she hates ice scream and the fact that in the book she's biracial.

The author herself suffered from depression and what seemed to be an identity crisis when she took up writing books. (If only her psychologist or psychiatrist didn't fall asleep on her sessions then I could have been spared from reading her books!)  She is married to an American guy. (Which explains why all of her characters in all the books, the daughters that is, are married to American men. Come on, find me a book of hers where an Asian daughter characters is married to an Asian man...)

I'll admit that I have never visited China, and cannot vouch for the accuracy of books, but if you are looking for non-Amy Tan books, then try reading Kate Furnivall's Russian Concubine which portrays very sympathetic AF and WM characters and also portrays an interesting relationship between AM and WF. Also try Suyin Han's 'Till Morning Comes that gives a very positive depiction of a Chinese male character. (The way he feels and thinks about Stephanie, one can't help but fall in love with him.) Although its not at the forefront, there is are also some Asian Female and White Men relationships as well.

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