February 19, 1952
Oakland, California, United States
Novelist, Producer, Screenwriter, Freelance business writer, Language development consultant
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Amy Tan was an American novelist best known for writing the critically acclaimed 1989 novel The Joy Luck Club, which was later adapted into an award-winning film by director Wayne Wang. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Tan's early childhood was filled with tragedy. Within six months, both her father and brother died of brain tumors, thus propelling Tan's mother to move the family to Switzerland. While living in the worldly European country Tan learned that her mother was previously married in China, and had subsequently abandoned her three children to immigrate to America. This revelation caused a strain in Tan's relationship with her mother, and would later prove the basis for her celebrated 1989 debut novel The Joy Luck Club. Tan later moved back to America to attend college at San Jose State University, where she received both her Bachelor's and Master's degree in Linguistics. While attending college Tan worked a number of odd jobs to support herself, including stints as a pizza maker and bartender, but soon found that she had a passion for writing. After attempting to continue her doctoral studies at UC Berkeley, Tan embarked on a career as a freelance business writer, covering such major corporations as IBM, AT&T, and Pacific Bell. During her free time, Tan worked on what would eventually become her debut novel The Joy Luck Club. When it was published in 1989, The Joy Luck Club, which tackled themes of the complex relationship between mothers and daughters, as well as the Chinese-American experience, was a smash hit, going on to become a finalist for the National Book Awards in Fiction. The success of the novel drew the attention of Hollywood, which adapted the book into a big budget film, directed by Wayne Wang, with a screenplay adapted by Tan. The film was a hit with audiences, and went on to earn a BAFTA Film Award nomination. Although she never again achieved the success of The Joy Luck Club, Tan went on to write several more novels in the years that followed, including 2013's The Valley of Amazement. In 2017 Tan wrote a memoir titled Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir. It was Tan's first published book since The Valley of Amazement.