The Joy Luck Club: Lesson One

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12726

It may seem obvious, but most writers write about what they know and stand atop people and events that influenced their life. Amy Tan revealed herself in the stories of Chinese Joy Luck Club members!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do you think the saying, "If you are greedy, what is inside you is what makes you always hungry," means?

The proverb you read about greed is one of the pieces of wisdom given to a character in The Joy Luck Club when she was a child living in China.

In this story, follow the lives of four women who immigrate to the United States after World War II, and their American-born daughters. Like her characters, the book's author, Amy Tan, is an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants. To learn more about Amy Tan's life, read Ghosts at my shoulder, an interview by Maya Jaggi, The Guardian Weekly. As you read, answer the questions listed below in a notebook or journal. You will keep this notebook or journal for the entire study of The Joy Luck Club. Take notes as you read, especially on the topic of Tan's influences, because you will use them in Go! section later in this lesson:

  • At what age did Amy Tan begin writing fiction?
  • How did critics perceive Amy Tan's text differently from what she intended?
  • What secrets did Tan's mother leave behind in China?
  • What was Amy's purpose in writing stories like The Joy Luck Club?
  • Why did Amy's mother relocate Amy and her younger brother to Switzerland?
  • What occupation did Tan hold other than professional author?
  • From what does Tan suffer as of this writing (2018)?

Once you've read the article, begin the book. Although Tan envisioned the book as a series of short stories, critics have referred to it as a novel. Consider both definitions as you read through the book in this series and determine whether you consider it a series of short stories or a novel in the final lesson.

You will need to obtain a copy of The Joy Luck Club to use throughout the series. You can purchase a print copy from a bookstore or online or borrow a copy from a local library. You also have the option to purchase a digital copy for download onto the electronic device of your choice. Once you have your copy, read the first three stories, or chapters, "The Joy Luck Club: Jing-Mei Woo," "Scar: An-Mei Hsu," and "The Red Candle: Lindo Jong." Take notes on the women you meet in the novel.

  • What do they reveal about their lives as they each narrate the chapter or story about themselves?

When you have finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to check your comprehension of the text and explore the plot, theme, and characters more closely.

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