“Hey, Sabrina, are you Japanese or Chinese?” I asked. Her reply, as it appears to be for a lot of minority groups, is, “Neither, I am Chinese-American.” So, in addition to her American accent and a hyphenated ending on her answer to the SAT questionnaire about her ethnic background, what is the difference? In Amy Tan’s enjoyable novel, The Joy Luck Club, about the relationships and experiences of four Chinese mothers and 4 Chinese-American daughters, I identified out the answer to this query. The difference in upbringing of these females born during the first quarter of this century in China, and their daughters born in the American atmosphere of California, is a difference that doesn’t exactly take a scientist to see.
From the beginning of the novel, you hear Suyuan Woo inform the story of “The Joy Luck Club,” a group started by some Chinese girls through Planet War II, where “we feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the finest stories. And every week, we could hope to be fortunate. That hope was our only joy.” (p. 12) Definitely, this was their only joy. The mothers grew up throughout perilous occasions in China. They all were taught “to desire nothing at all, to swallow other people’s misery, to eat [their] own bitterness.” (p. 241) Although not several of them grew up terribly poor, they all had a certain respect for their elders, and for life itself. These Chinese mothers had been all taught to be honorable, to the point of sacrificing their personal lives to keep any household members’ guarantee. Instead of their daughters, who “can promise to come to dinner, but if she wants to watch a favorite movie on Television, she no longer has a guarantee” (p. 42), “To Chinese people today, fourteen carats is not actual gold . . . [my bracelets] ought to be twenty-four carats, pure inside and out.” (p. 42)