Happy Birthday, Amy Tan! In honor of her 67thbirthday, we’ve compiled five life lessons we can learn from this amazing woman. How amazing? She has three bestselling books, countless awards, and a writing career spanning multiple genres and mediums. Taking from her own life experiences, Tan writes about mother-daughter relationships, dealing with loss, and the conflict between traditions and modern culture.
Strength comes from happiness in times of loss
In her most famous novel, The Joy Luck Club, four Chinese families adjust to America after immigrating to San Francisco in 1949. Connected by their heritage and experiences of loss, the mothers and daughters share stories of their past to better understand who they are today. Instead of dwelling in their sadness, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club and find strength together.
Cherish loved ones—even if it’s hard at times
The Bonesetter’s Daughter focuses on the importance of family and the unconditional love they provide. As Ruth cares for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, old letters bring back memories from before her mother immigrated from China. Learning about her family’s history gives Ruth a new perception of her mother and brings them closer than ever before.
Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone!
Many writers find a genre they like working with and stick with it. Readers are the same way. Amy Tan has written countless fiction and nonfiction stories in both short and long form. With stories ranging from memoirs to children’s books, Tan has established a repertoire of books that appeals to many audiences. Not only does her work connect with readers, her stories have been adapted into other mediums. Tan wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of The Joy Luck Club in 1994 and she was the librettist for the opera adaptation of The Bonesetter’s Daughter performed by the San Francisco Opera Company in 2008.
Never let go of your inner child
Tan sees children’s books as an opportunity to explore themes of Chinese heritage in a new way. She wrote two books focusing on Chinese history and myths. The Moon Lady is an adaptation of Tan’s earlier novel, The Joy Luck Club. It tells the story of three sisters who wish there was something to do on a rainy day. This reminds their grandmother of a magical day when she met the Moon Lady, who grants secret wishes of those that ask. Tan also explores why Siamese cats’ paws and face get darker as they age in the charming book Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat. This was also adapted as a television show for PBS Kids. Following the mischief young cat Sagwa, the story provides a fun explanation of the Siamese cats’ origin and what makes them special.
Stay true to who you are
Told with two opposing narrators, The Hundred Secret Senses explores the struggle between accepting Chinese traditions and living within current American culture. Olivia, a Chinese-American, becomes increasingly frustrated with her half-sister Kwan Li. Kwan Li was born in China and cannot seem to adjust to American culture. While Olivia’s narration explains her decades-long grudge against her sister, Kwan Li’s narration describes the beauty and hardships from her memories of China. Influenced by Tan’s own struggle with accepting her Chinese culture, this story explores what it means to embrace your heritage, while finding your own identity in the present.