The character of Lindo Jong in The Joy Luck Club from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Why should you care about what Waverly Jong says in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club? Lindo has the power to transform Waverly's perceptions through her. From her mother, Waverly inherits her “invisible strength”—her ability to conceal her Lindo, as well, imagining her struggles with her mother as a tournament. The Joy Luck Club continues with Lindo and Waverly Jong. As a child, Lindo had a pre-arranged marriage, which turned out poorly. She wants her daughter to.
So I wrote a story about a chess champion and her mother. Much to my surprise, I could see a voice and a story emerge. The voice was not dialogue but that inner voice of a person with secret thoughts. And the story had less to do with plot as it did with a transformation of perspective by the end. There were more surprises. I was a success. That editor, by the way, has since become editor-in-chief of a well-known publishing company.
I went on to write a second story, this one in the voice of an older woman. In between, an agent saw the first published story and asked to represent me. I had nothing to sell, so she badgered me every week to write another story. I did, and then she asked me to write up a description of what a whole book of these kinds of stories might include so that she might find interested publishers. I thought she was unrealistically optimistic, so I spent only a few hours conjuring story ideas that came off the top of my head, each described in about three sentences.
Because the other three stories were unrelated, I wove them into a premise: They would be stories concerning five families, and of older and younger voices, all of whom belonged to a community. The community, I decided, would be a social group, the Joy Luck Club. The five families were reduced to four when I ran out of story ideas that afternoon. I did not intentionally limit the stories to those of mothers and daughters. That naturally came to be, and I only recognized it in retrospect.
When the book was published, the short story collection was called a novel by reviewers. All of the stories in this book involve relationships between mothers and daughters. How much did your relationship with your own mother influence each story? Are there two characters in particular who mirror your own experience as the American-born daughter of a Chinese immigrant? My relationship with my mother has much to do with each story.
Shortly after I started writing fiction, my mother suffered what I was told was a heart attack. That was the reason I went to China, why I started with a story about a daughter who has just lost her mother, and who later travels for the first time to China and meets her half-sisters who were left behind.
The stories are not a mirror of either me or my mother. They are more like refractions, different angles of some part of us, a bending of what really happened. My mother was alive when I wrote the story, but what would I have felt if she had died?
I began a story that concerned exactly that: Waverly rebels against her mother, thinking she has become smarter and no longer needs to take her advice. My mother left behind three daughters in China and eventually was reunited with them. I met them when I went to China with my mother in In the story version, my mother believed her twin baby daughters died during the war, and after the mother died, June learns the other daughters are alive and goes to meet them.
What is common to both the real and fictional is a connection to the past and seeing what is shared despite circumstances. The subterfuge of fiction is necessary for me as a writer to find truths. I know that sounds contradictory. To me, writing fiction is about cloaking myself in a subterfuge, making myself the hidden observer. But what often happens is my realizing some of observations have to do with what is hidden in my family and in me. There is another strong influence of my mother in the way I write fiction.
When she told stories of her past, she would act as if the memory was the same as the moment she was in. She would act out the scene as if it were unfolding in front of her, an invisible scene with ghosts, with her relaying to me what was occurring with an immediacy of details and emotions. Go ahead and kill me, I tell him, and he is putting the gun in my face, right here, and everyone is screaming, and suddenly he is laughing and he is putting the gun down.
He is telling everybody it is only a joke. He is happy he fooled them into being scared. I know it is not a joke. The Joy Luck Club was made into a feature film inand you wrote the screenplay for it. What was that experience like? What are your thoughts on the resulting film? Would you consider adapting any of your other works of fiction for movies?
In spite of being aware and wary of all the bad things that can happen to writers who dream of turning their novels into films, I had a surprisingly good experience, and it resulted in a movie I love. In the beginning, I turned down several offers to option the book, because I feared that someone would make a film that was appalling in its depictions of Chinese people, for example, that people would wear coolie hats and have curved dagger fingernails, even though they were not in the rice fields or selling opium to Charlie Chan.
But then I met two people who seemed to understand the heart of this book in ways I had never considered. They were the director Wayne Wang and the screenwriter Ron Bass. He also created a clear structure into which all the stories would fit: With this outline, I took the first stab at writing the dialogue.
I would rewrite and move on. It was an intense kind of teamwork, no time wasted, a creative high, and ultimately the best class on screenwriting I could have ever taken, private lessons with the master, earn while you learn.
The three of us made a pact we would not sell the screenplay or rights to the book until we found a studio that would give us total creative control, meaning we controlled the screenplay, the choice of location and actors, the filming, the editing, all the way to the final cut. But I believed all along that the process of writing this screenplay with two great professionals was the reason for doing it. If it was never made it to film, that was fine. It would have still been time and effort well spent and without regrets.
When we did find a studio willing to give us total creative control, that was a bonus. Strangely enough, the studio insisted I also be a coproducer. To this day, I have no idea what a producer does, except go to meetings and say yes to some things and no to others. I was offered other opportunities to make films. But all of those projects would have also required that I be involved as both writer and producer.
That would then require me to give up writing fiction for the two- or three-year period it takes to create a movie. But that was a time-limited involvement of just a few months.
The Joy Luck Club (SparkNotes)
Once again, I linked up with good people—and by that, I mean people both talented and with ethics, integrity, and a genuine heart. The series turned out better than I ever could have imagined. I get twinges in my heart when little kids shyly tell me they watch Sagwa. It reminds me of myself as a kid watching cartoons and wondering who made them. Her mother, Suyuan, created the Joy Luck Club, and following her recent death Jing-mei must take her place at the gathering.
Though this club serves as the title of the book and the unifying theme for all of the characters, there are not many meetings of the club recalled throughout the stories—many of the stories take place long before the club was conceived. What made you decide to use the Joy Luck Club as the backbone of the book but not focus on it in the action? The Joy Luck Club is the framework, the basis for the community, and a way to relate what would otherwise be disconnected stories and disparate characters with indivdual pasts.
I was more interested in the individuals than the whole, the structure. And once the structure had been established, there was no need to keep returning to it. The stories are also connected by the kind of hope common to immigrants, that the new country will bring them joy and luck, those two things linked to become joy luck, and this was in contrast to bad luck, the kind that had plagued many of them.
The club does have some basis in my life. My father and mother belonged to the real Joy Luck Club, and in fact, my father named it.
I grew up with the daughters of other families, and we would have slumber parties and listen to our parents playing mahjong and talking loudly through the night. At midnight, they ate dim sum, and sometimes we were allowed to have a late snack with them. Having grown up with the real Joy Luck Club, I thought the name was unremarkable.
The Joy Luck Club (SparkNotes)
This was when few people knew what feng shui meant, and my agent thought Wind and Water was both esoteric and precious. The church serves as a meeting place for many immigrants, a place where they can take English classes and where their children are given Christmas presents.
China is not a traditionally Christian nation, but when the characters go to the church, the issue of religion does not become problematic. What are your thoughts on the many Chinese immigrants to the United States who have become Christians? And what of those who have not? Do you feel that there is any tension between the spiritual beliefs that are important in Chinese culture as opposed to those dominant in Western Christian doctrine?
Christianity has a long history in China and found a lot of compatibility with the poor. And it also had a role in rebellions by the poor, in particular during the Taiping Rebellion and Boxer Uprising. It is an evangelistic religion that seeks to convert the ignorant and nonbelievers. This is unlike the goals of other religions, such as Judaism or Buddhism. On the Tan side of my family, my great-grandfather, who did not come from a wealthy family, was able to receive an education at a missionary school, where he learned to read, write, and speak English.
Being a Christian did not prevent people from keeping other Chinese traditions, such as praying to ancestors. Yet she was my great-grandmother, and the son she bore was my grandfather. He also was educated in a Christian school. My grandfather continued the tradition and passed along both his linguistic skills and his religious fervor to his fourteen children, the oldest of which was my father.
They also helped maintain the Tan family temple, the building where the family prayed to our ancestors—or perhaps they now prayed for them. With help from Baptist missionaries, my father was able to come to the States, where he enrolled in the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School and became minister of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno. Because of financial need, he eventually returned to his original profession as an electrical engineer but continued to devote his spare time to the ministry.
My mother was not raised as a Christian, but she grew up in Shanghai, where it was not unusual for people to have contact with Westerners and Christian beliefs. Both Shanghai and Beijing had been divided into foreign concessions, and my mother lived in the French Concession in a yang fang yuan, a foreign garden house, meaning Western in style. She was raised without any religion in particular, but had the motley beliefs common to many of the well-to-do of her generation, that is, rituals for showing respect to ancestors, a fear of unhappy ghosts for some reason ghosts were never happyand a belief in reincarnation, which could explain a lot of things, like curses, fate, and acceptance of your bad circumstances.
At times my mother believed I was a reincarnation of someone she had wronged, and I had come back as karmic revenge to make her life miserable. The Joy Luck Club was first published in How has your perspective on the book changed over the intervening seventeen years?
Which characters or stories have remained most vivid in your mind? Is there anything that you would change about the book if you could?
The book exists for me in its own time capsule. It contains the circumstances that led me to write it. In many ways, it is an intimate diary of my ordinary thoughts and strange obsessions, all of which were absorbed into the writing of the book.
So there is nothing I would change. I feel that way about each book. They all exist for their particular reasons. Sometimes I think my grandmother, who had no voice of her own, paved the way with a lot of lucky coincidences so that I would become a writer and give voice to what had happened to her. All four of the daughters in this book have ended up unlucky in love in one way or another—Jing-mei is still single at forty, Waverly is about to get married for the second time, and both Rose and Lena are on the verge of divorce.
Most of them have also married Caucasian American men, and there is a good deal of tension between their parents especially the mothers and their spouses.
What made you decide to have all of the girls marry white men? What were your intentions when you created those unions? Were you influenced by any couples you have known or relationships you have personally experienced?
My intentions in writing stories are always personal. Before I was published I never felt the self-consciousness that results from an unknown public reading my stories. It did not occur to me that the details of the story might raise questions about what was being represented as a larger sociological phenomenon about mixed marriages.
So what I wrote was only based on the familiar. My husband is not Chinese. Among my American-born Chinese friends and relatives, all of them married a non-Chinese. People might say this is proof that we American-born Chinese believed white people were more desirable. I think the choice of white men or white women as spouses was related more to opportunity, the opportunity to meet a lot of Caucasians and the few opportunities to meet other Chinese people.
The only Chinese boys I knew when I was growing up were my brothers, my cousins, and the boys I babysat while their parents played mahjong with mine. By the time I was in junior high school, we lived in the suburbs where there were no Asians.
The Joy Luck Club Reader’s Guide
Even in college, there were only two Asians, and one became a good friend. He and I used to joke that we were supposed to marry one another because we were Asian. I met my future husband in my freshman year, so that was the end of my dating career.
She knew I would not be able to meet too many Chinese boys, and she never voiced disappointment that Lou was not Chinese. As with my mother, the concerns had more to do with whether the man truly respected and cared for the daughter. My mother, for example, wanted Lou to prove his love for me by standing up to his parents when they suggested we break things off. She told him to buy me a piano so that I could put to work those fifteen years of piano lessons, and also to make Lou think twice about ever leaving me; that would also mean leaving behind a very expensive piano.
Her methods of ensuring a long-lasting marriage must work, because Lou and I are still together after thirty-six years. Like the mothers in the stories, my mother had a suspicious view of all men that was drawn from experience.
Her mother had been raped, forced to become a concubine, and she later killed herself to escape. My mother was married off to a bad man, who lied, gambled, cheated, and flaunted his infidelities by bringing other women home.
He also raped little girls. What kind of book would result if Jing-mei, Rose, Lena, and Waverly were telling their stories to their daughters? What are your thoughts on the next generation of Chinese American women coming of age? I have not thought about the first question. Lindo and Waverly were both brought up in different cultures. Throughout the novel, these cultural differences cause significant conflict between Lindo and Waverly.
An example of this, is when Waverly takes her mother to have a hair cut. This cultural conflict between Eastern and Western society which is clearly evident in the relationship of Lindo and Waverly Jong, cannot be prevented as it is a result of their different upbringings. Lindo and Waverly have great difficulty in relating to one another, due to their lack of communication in the past.
How fast would you like to get it? We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails. Thus causing conflict throughout the progression of their relationship. This can be seen when Waverly tries to tell Lindo of her marriage. Waverly finds this extremely difficult, as she feels overpowered by her mother. The theme of discovering identity is played on many times by Amy Tan through the relationship of Lindo and Waverly Jong.
American circumstances and Chinese character. Growing up in a Western society with Chinese up bringing makes it very hard for Waverly to find her true identity. She becomes trapped between the two cultures, Chinese on the outside, yet American on the inside.