The Joy Luck Club

From Academic Kids

The Joy Luck Club is a best-selling novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese-American immigrant families who start a club known as "the Joy Luck Club," playing the Chinese game of Mah Jong for money while feasting on a variety of food. There are twelve chapters divided into four sections, and each woman, both mothers and daughters, (with the exception of one mother, Suyuan Woo, who is presented as dead from the beginning of the novel) share stories about their lives in the form of vignettes.

As the novel opens Jing-Mei "June" Woo has just lost her mother, Suyuan, to an aneurism. She is asked by her mother's three friends to take Suyuan's place in their Mah-Jong foursome and their 'Joy Luck Club.' The novel unfolds with interspersed chapters by each of the three remaining members of the Club and their American-born daughters. Lindo and Waverly Jong began their war over Waverly's childhood chess stardom and now it continues into every aspect of Waverly's adult life. An-Mei Hsu recounts the tragedy that gave her strength, and worries that her daughter, Rose, lacks the same determination. Lena St. Clair tries to care for her eccentric mother, while her mother recounts a secret history that has allowed her to see more deeply than her daughter imagines. Through it all, June Woo tries to piece together the stories that her own mother can no longer tell, and to be faithful to her mother's memory despite their sometimes rocky relationship.

In 1993, the novel was made into a feature film directed by Wayne Wang and starring Ming-Na, Lauren Tom, Mei Juan Xi and Vivian Wu with screenplay by Amy Tan, herself. When the film premiered, there were several protests across the United States by members of the Chinese American communities, due to negative portrayals of traditional Chinese society and Asian males.


Characters of The Joy Luck Club

The Mothers:

  • Suyuan Woo - In the days during the war, Suyuan lived in the Chinese town of Kweilin while her husband (at the time) served as an officer in Chungking. On the day of the Japanese invasion, Suyuan was forced to leave her house only with a bag of clothes, a bag of food and her two twin daughters. In the long trek, she was forced to abandon both bags, and eventually her daughters as well.
  • An-mei Hsu - As the child of a concubine, she and her brother lived with her uncle's family and her grandmother. She never knew her mother because everyone in the family she lived with only spoke of her in dirty whispers. Her mother eventually sacrifices herself to give her daughter a better life.
  • Lindo Jong - Lindo is a woman whose strong will is attributed by her daughter Waverly to having been born in the year of the Horse. When she was only twelve, she was wedded to a neighbor's young son Huang Tyuan Yi. She began to love her husband as a brother, but her cold mother-in-law was greedy for a grandson, and began to restrict Lindo. However, through careful observation of her surroundings, Lindo was cleverly able to escape her marriage unharmed and immigrate to America.
  • Ying-Ying St. Clair - A spoiled child of a wealthy family, Ying-Ying one day had gone on a family boat trip to meet the Moon Lady, a woman who comes around once in a while "from the moon" to grant wishes. Ying-Ying fell off the boat unnoticed, was picked up by a fisherman's raft and put back ashore where she met the Moon Lady (who turned out to be a man). She wished to be found, and when she was finally found by her family, she never felt like the same person.
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The Daughters:

  • Jing-mei "June" Woo- Jing-mei has never fully understood her mother and is somewhat directionless in life. When she is chosen to replace her mother in the Joy Luck Club, she also is responsible finishing what her mother set out to do before she died by meeting with her two half-sisters.
  • Rose Hsu Jordan - Rose has always been held responsible for her younger siblings until one of her younger brothers was swept out to sea. She seems weak willed, especially after her ex-husband is determined to sell the house she wishes to continue living in.
  • Waverly Jong - Waverly is independant minded and intelligent, but is annoyed by her mother's constant criticism. Well into her adult life, she finds herself restrained with her subconscious fear of letting her mother down.
  • Lena St. Clair - Lena's marriage is falling apart to such a degree that even her supposedly senile mother can see this while Lena remains blind.
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The Table of Contents

(Name of chapter followed by Narrator's name whose perspective is being used for the chapter)

Feathers from a Thousand Li Away

  • "The Joy Luck Club," Jing-mei Woo
  • "Scar," An-mei Hsu
  • "The Red Candle," Lindo Jong
  • "The Moon Lady," Ying-ying St. Clair

The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates

  • "Rules of the Game," Waverly Jong
  • "The Voice from the Wall," Lena St. Clair
  • "Half and Half," Rose Hsu Jordan
  • "Two Kinds," Jing-mei Woo

American Translation

  • "Rice Husband," Lena St. Clair
  • "Four Directions," Waverly Jong
  • "Without Wood," Rose Hsu Jordan
  • "Best Quality," Jing-mei Woo

Queen Mother of the Western Skies

  • "Magpies," An-mei Hsu
  • "Waiting Between the Trees," Ying-Ying St. Clair
  • "Double Face," Lindo Jong
  • "A Pair of Tickets," Jing-mei Woo

External Links

Internet Movie Database: The Joy Luck Club (


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