"Airing Dirty Laundry": Chinese and Chinese-American responses to Amy Tan
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Amy Tan, the author of The Joy Luck Club (1989), The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991), The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2001), and Saving Fish from Drowning (2005), is accused of being a “fake” Chinese American writer by radical Chinese American critics such as Frank Chin. I consider Tan’s fictional writing of the experience of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American born daughters to be an experiment in cross-cultural communication. Such communication may be highly personal and subjective to Tan, who claims to write so that her mother can understand her feelings and to remember what she has learned from her Chinese side. I also believe her writings create an opportunity for bi- (or cross-) cultural communication and it matches the concept of harmony in Chinese traditional philosophy.
In Chinese scholar Jianjun Zou’s opinion, Tan’s works represent the notion of reconciliation, and that all of these works shall be viewed as a whole is the inspiration of this thesis. Reconciliation in terms of Tan’s works has three parts, which are: (1) the reconciliation between languages; (2) the reconciliation between genders; (3) the reconciliation among generations. The existence of reconciliation proves that Tan’s writing about the Chinese community is multi-dimensional. From my point of view, she should not be simply defined as a stereotype writer whose works can only reinforce the prejudices against the Chinese community and Chinese men. In my opinion, for Chinese American criticism, violation of the women’s right to tell of the oppression from the Chinese traditional family values should not be the solution to the prejudices of the white dominant culture. For Chinese critics in Chinese speaking regions, especially in China, I suggest that we should have a humble attitude towards the Chinese American literature because the “real” and the “fake” are difficult to define, even in the motherland of Chinese culture.