This was a really interesting set of nonfiction essays by the writer Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife. Since it’s a collection, rather than a single piece, there was a great deal of overlap in the topics being discussed, and that actually made it more interesting for me, rather than less. Because the topics were often the same or similar but the writing time and intended audience varied, it gave very different perspectives on some of the events in her life. And she has had a quite eventful life.
While Tan’s fiction is very much fictional, I can see why so many of her readers think these stories are true. Tan’s real life would fit right in with that of her fictional characters.
I particularly liked her perspective on minority authors, and how they don’t need to be and shouldn’t be required to be minority spokespeople. The best stuff speaks to the human condition, not just the minority condition.
I was reminded of reading The Thousand and One Nights, the set of recursive stories that Scheherazade tells to her husband over the course of three years so as to postpone her execution. Her husband believes that all women and certainly all wives are evil and deceptive and deserve to die before they get the opportunity to betray their husbands. So Scheherazade tells story within story about people being people: men and women and husbands and wives and children and lovers who are variously good or evil or strong or weak or smart or stupid or silly. Because while Scheherazade’s husband believes all women are evil, the lesson Scheherazade is trying to teach him is not that all women are good, but that women are people just like men and each individual must be judged by their own merits.
Anyway, I enjoyed this book, but also think that I will probably not read any of her other books. I like to keep a certain amount of distance when looking at the human condition, and Tan seems to dive right in to look at the difficult and the gritty parts of being human.