Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan

4 Mothers, 4 Daughters

The Joy Luck Club is a book about 4 Chinese immigrants and their American born daughters. It tells the story of these mothers' childhoods in China, how they came to America, their daughters’ childhoods and how they became women themselves. The book is several interwoven stories set from the 1920s to the 80s in several regions of China, San Francisco, and Oakland.

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Their stories intertwined with the others due to the elderly women’s friendship and mahjong games and the resulting daughters’ friendships. In every family there is a common thread to their story and hardships. All the mothers grew up with an absent mother or were separated from them and all had experienced or observed a tragic, failed marriage before they fled their home and country for America. All of their daughters grew up heavily influenced by American culture, and mistook their mothers’ protection and pride for overbearing and unrealistic expectations. The difference between cultures created a rift that was not resolved until all the daughters were grown women.

Meet the Family

The four mothers in the book are Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong and Ying-ying St. Clair and their daughters are Jing-mei “June” Woo, Rose Hsu Jordan, Waverly Jong and Lena St. Clair, respectively. Every character tells their own story in two chapters, except for the Woos whose story is told solely by June due to Suyuan’s recent death.

Ying-ying & Lena St. Clair

Ying-ying was raised in a wealthy family in China but was forced into an ugly marriage where she “lost herself” and aborted her pregnancy. After her husband left her she started to work and become her own person again and met an American man whom she married, though not out of love. After her daughter Lena, she loses another baby and realizes she wants a better life for her daughter. Lena as an adult is not completely happy with her marriage, in which they mathematically split everything. Her mother tells her life story to help Lena through the pain of her own marriage before it’s too late.

Suyuan & Jing-Mei "June" Woo

Suyuan Woo grew up in Kweilin, China where she met and married a soldier and had two twin girls. Her husband was stationed in Chungking when the Japanese invaded her city so she fled on foot to join him, not knowing that he was already dead. She was forced to abandon all her worldly possessions and her babies while running away and was never able to find them again, though she searched her whole life for them. As she grew up, her daughter June, from her second marriage, always felt that she was a disappointment to her mother, but after her mother’s death she took her place at the mahjong table and realized that she was her mother’s prized possession.

Lindo & Waverly Jong

Lindo Jong was forced into an arranged marriage at a young age but she tricks her in-laws into letting her leave because she is so miserable. She flees to America where she works at a factory until she meets her husband. Her eldest son dies in a car crash, and the other is incarcerated. Her daughter, Waverly is a chess genius and is her pride and joy. The two fight often but they resolve their differences when Waverly marries her second husband who is an American. Lindo learns to accept her daughter’s American ways and Waverly tries to be more “Chinese.”

An-Mei Hsu & Rose Hsu Jordan

An-mei Hsu grew up within a family that ostracized her mother for becoming a concubine. An-mei joins her mother when she is older and realizes that she lives a miserable life in her new home. Shortly after she moves in, her mother kills herself. After her mother’s death, she moves to America where she faces many hardships with her family, including losing her youngest son in the ocean. His drowning causes her to lose her faith and is partially her daughter Rose's fault. Rose later goes through a divorce and becomes empowered in the same way her mother was empowered when she lost her own mom to suicide.