Where the Past Begins (Tan) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Also named—En-Mai Tan
Birth—February 15, 1952
Where—Oakland, California, USA
Education—B.A., M.A., San Jose State University
Currently—San Francisco, California

Amy Tan is a Chinese-American writer, many of whose works explore mother-daughter relationships. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989) brought her fame and has remained one of her most popular works. It was adapted to film in 1993.

Early yeaars
Tan is the second of three children born to Chinese immigrants John and Daisy Tan. Her father was an electrical engineer and Baptist minister who traveled to the US to escape the Chinese Revolution. Although she was born in Oakland, California, her family moved a number of times throughout her childhood.

When she was fifteen, her father and older brother Peter both died of brain tumors within six months of each other. Tan subsequently moved with her mother and younger brother, John Jr., to Switzerland, where she finished high school at the Institut Monte Rosa in Montreux.

It was during this period that Tan learned about her mother's previous marriage in China, where she had four children (a son who died in toddlerhood and three daughters). Her mother had left her husband and children behind in Shanghai — an incident that became the basis for Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club. In 1987, she and her mother traveled to China to meet her three half-sisters for the first time.

Tan enrolled at Linfield College in Oregon, a Baptist college of her mother's choosing. After she dropped out to follow her boyfriend to San Jose City College in California, she and her mother stopped speaking for six months. Tan ended up marrying the young man in 1974 and subsequently earned both her B.A. and M.A. in English and linguistics from San Jose State University. She began her doctoral studies in linguistics at University of California-Santa Cruz and Berkeley, but abandoned them in 1976.

While in school, Tan worked odd jobs — serving as a switchboard operator, carhop, bartender, and pizza maker. Eventually, she started writing freelance for businesses, working on projects for AT&T, IBM, Bank of America, and Pacific Bell, writing under non-Chinese-sounding pseudonyms.

In 1985, she turned to fiction, publishing her first story in 1986 in a small literary journal. It was later reprinted in Seventeen magazine and Grazia. On her return from the China trip with her mmother, where she had met her half-sisters, Tan learned her agent had signed a contract for a book of short stories, only three of which were written. That book eventually became The Joy Luck Club and launchd Tan's literary career.

In addition to her novels (see below), Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS. She has also appeared on PBS in a short spot encouraging children to write.

Tan is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band consisting of published writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening, Dave Barry and Stephen King, among others. In 1994 she co-wrote, with the other band members, Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America With Three Chords and an Attitude.

In 1998, Tan contracted Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for a few years. As a result, she suffers from epileptic seizures due to brain lesions. Tan co-founded LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment, and wrote about her life with Lyme disease in a 2013 op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Tan is still married to the guy she ran off with from Linfield College and married in 1974. He is Louis DeMattei, a lawyer, and the two live in San Francisco.

1989 - The Joy Luck Club
1991 - The Kitchen God's Wife
1995 - The Hundred Secret Senses
2001 - The Bonesetter's Daughter
2003 - The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings (Essays)
2005 - Saving Fish from Drowning
2013 - The Valley of Amazement
2017 - Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia and the author's website.)

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