First generation American writer Amy Tan was born In Oakland, California on February 19, 1952 to Chinese immigrant parents. She studied at San Jose State University where she received both her BA and Masters degree. She pursued a doctoral degree at UC Berkley but eventually dropped out. Before breaking out as a writer, she worked a variety of jobs, including switchboard operator, pizza chef, and bartender. In 1989, Tan published her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, and she became an immediate and massive success. Her book was adapted into a hit film in 1993. Like much of her body of work, this first novel was partially inspired by her real life experiences: the interaction between a Chinese mother and her American daughter and the burden of family tragedy.
Her family was touched by tragedy and these life events greatly influenced her writing. When she was fifteen years old, both her father and older brother died of brain tumors. Both she and her mother struggled with depression and suicidal ideation.
Tan has gone on to publish numerous other novels with similar themes, such as The Kitchen God's Wife, The Bonesetter's Daughter, and Valley of Amazement. She has written two children's books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, the latter of which was adapted into a PBS children's series.
Her most recent book, a memoir entitled Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir, was published in 2017. Tan is one of the rare writers who's first book was a success and who has managed to sustain that success throughout the course of her career. Her novels, short stories, and personal essays continue to inspire. Celebrate her birthday by checking out some of the best quotes from Amy Tan and her impressive body of work.
1. “Then you must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.” ~The Joy Luck Club
2. "So this is what I will do. I will gather together my past and look. I will see a thing that has already happened. The pain that cut my spirit loose. I will hold that pain in my hand until it becomes hard and shiny, more clear. And then my fierceness can come back, my golden side, my black side. I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter's tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and giver her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter." ~The Joy Luck Club
3. "I love and am loved, fully and freely, nothing expected, more than enough received.” ~The Hundred Secret Senses
4. "What is the past but what we choose to remember?” ~The Bonesetter's Daughter
5. "Love is tricky. It is never mundane or daily. You can never get used to it. You have to walk with it, then let it walk with you. You can never balk. It moves you like the tide. It takes you out to sea, then lays you on the beach again. Today's struggling pain is the foundation for a certain stride through the heavens. You can run from it but you can never say no. It includes everyone.” ~ The Hundred Secret Senses
6. "You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.” ~The Kitchen God's Wife
7. “With hope, a mind is always free.” ~Saving Fish from Drowning
8. "I have a writer's memory which makes everything worse than maybe it actually was.” ~Amy Tan
9. "I feed myself with the old grief.” ~The Joy Luck Club
10. "I think that's why I'm a storyteller...I have the luxury to do exactly what it is we all need time to do...think about the mystery of life.” ~Amy Tan