Biography of Amy Tan

Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California, to Chinese immigrant parents. After Tan's father and brother both died of brain tumors, her family settled in Montreux, Switzerland, where Tan graduated from high school. Tan's higher education spanned five different colleges. She attended Linfield College in Oregon, San Jose City College, and San Jose State University for her bachelor's degree in English and Linguistics. She then earned her M.A. in Linguistics from San Jose State University before enrolling in the Ph.D. program in linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. After the murder of one of her closest friends, Tan explored different paths, including consulting and directing for organizations helping disabled children, as well as working as a freelance business writer, before finding her calling as a fiction writer.

When asked about why she chose to write about issues close to her family, Tan responded, "I said to myself when I was 17, 'I'm not going to have anything to do with anything Chinese when I leave home. I'm going to be completely American.' ... So if you were to say to me when I was 17, 'You know, one day you're going to write a book about Chinese people and about your relationship with your mother and how much you love your mother,' and all this stuff, I would have said ... 'You are absolutely crazy. There is no way I would ever do that.'" Despite her initial tentativeness about expresing her heritage, Tan has since published several other bestselling novels and one work of nonfiction.

After the unexpected success of The Joy Luck Club, Tan published several other bestselling novels, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter's Daughter. Her first work of non-fiction, The Opposite of Fate, was published in 2003. Tan is also the author of two children's books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat. Her essay "Mother Tongue" has been widely anthologized. Tan's most recent novel is Saving Fish from Drowning. Her work has been translated into 23 languages.

Tan is a member of a "literary garage band," the Rock Bottom Remainders, which is dedicated to giving benefit performances for charity. Her other hobbies include skiing and attending the Westminster Dog show, where she pursues her love of Yorkshire Terriers. Tan has struggled with a form of Lyme Disease called late-stage neuroborreliosis for the last several years. She recently helped found LymeAid 4 Kids with the Lyme Disease Association, in hopes of increasing awareness and support for children suspected of having the disease. Tan lives in San Francisco and New York with her husband, Lou DeMattei, and with their two dogs.


Study Guides on Works by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club is Amy Tan's first novel, published in 1989. Just two years before the book's release, Tan was succeeding as a speech writer and self-proclaimed workaholic. Feeling unfulfilled, she found her calling in fiction writing. Tan...