Welcome to Week 2 of the Online Book Club discussion of The Joy Luck Club.
Did you enjoy reading the beginning of the book this week? It's a pretty sad story, right from the get go, but I still enjoyed all of the characters and the narrative.
I feel like this book is a little hard to talk about because there are so many little stories instead of one big story. Did you enjoy the fact that this book is more like a compilation of vignettes instead of one long narrative? I thought it made the reading experience more interesting, but I admit that I had to keep flipping to the very beginning where there was a chart of the mothers and daughters so I could keep the characters straight in my head.
Which of the stories did you enjoy the most? In the very beginning of the book, we're introduced to Jing-Mei Woo, and we find out that her mother recently died and left behind a task for Jing-Mei. Her mother has two daughters that she was forced to leave in China when she came to the United States, and Jing-Mei is going to go to China and meet them and tell them about their mother. That was definitely an exciting way to start the book, and it made me want to continue reading.
The next three stories were incredibly sad. Each of these women had to endure such sad circumstances. An-Mei Hsu was separated from her mother because her mother became a concubine after she was widowed. Lindo Jong had a really sad marriage but cleverly figured out a way to escape it, and Ying Ying St. Clair almost drowns, loses her family, only to be reunited with them at the end of the section. Each of these women had distinct stories, but they are tied together in the fact that they overcame great obstacles, and these past events shaped the way the women interact with their daughters. I can't imagine the pain that the women lived with every day--it's a wonder that they were able to be functional adults. One of the quotes that stuck out to me the most in this section came in Ying Ying St. Clair's chapter. In the chapter, Ying Ying's Amah says, "Haven't I taught you that it is wrong to think of your own needs? A girl can never ask, only listen" (p. 70). Isn't that so incredibly sad? Ying Ying is obviously affected by these words since she says at the beginning of the section that she's spent her whole life with her mouth closed so her selfish desires wouldn't fall out of her mouth.
In the next two sections, we're introduced to two of the daughters, Waverly Jong and Lena St. Clair. Waverly's story is different--she becomes a chess champion and an admired member of her family, but at the end of the section, she and her mother butt heads and have a big argument. Her mother wants her to learn the art of invisible strength, but this strength causes them to come in odds with each other. Lena's chapter is really sad--probably because her mother, Ying Ying's, section was so sad. Ying Ying has a loose grip on reality, and this really affects Lena's childhood. Her mom loses a baby, and Lena wishes for a way to help her mother through her madness. Didn't you find that chapter hard to read? It was really sad to me. I hated seeing how Ying Ying was so depressed.
Is there any character that you are excited to learn more about? Do you want to have closure about any of the stories?
Did you know that Amy Tan got a lot of inspiration for the book from her family's stories? If you'd like to read about the ways her family's past informed the book, check out this reflection she wrote 30 years after The Joy Luck Club was published. And, if you'd like to see how her family is still informing her work, check out the video link below in which she talks about her latest book.
I hope you enjoyed this first section and are excited to keep reading! For next time, finish section two, "The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates," and read all of section three, "American Translation." I can't wait to hear from you in the comments section!