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The life and early years of amy tan

Amy Tan with her husband, Louis DeMattei I am greeted first by Bobo, a tiny, excitable teacup terrier, skittering towards me, followed by Tan, who is carrying a box of Yorkshire teabags she has thoughtfully procured for our meeting. She is petite, sleek and slender, in black leggings, wedge sandals and a chic Vivienne Tam top.

Ghosts at my shoulder

She sports a sharp black bob, a blunt fringe and bright-red lipstick, a look that might come off as severe were if not for her immediate self-deprecating warmth. With her husband of 39 years, the tax lawyer Louis DeMattei, she splits her time between New York and San Francisco, which must be something of a mission as a writer, having to remember to cart notes and materials across the country.

The Valley of Amazement, a brick of a book at 608 pages, spans 40 years, is set between San Francisco, Shanghai and remote Chinese villages, and is the result of eight years of work.

They were wearing the same outfits she had seen her grandmother wearing in photographs. But no one had ever mentioned her being a courtesan.

  1. There are clear parallels between Violet learning that her mother had a wholly different life — and another child — before her and the discoveries Tan, as a teenager, made about her own mother.
  2. While that inheritance can be traced in her novels, what stands out more is the changing, often abrasive, interplay between generations, between Chinese mothers and their American daughters.
  3. But simply because my mother could not speak good English, did that make her inferior?

But I am not advertising that I am a dominatrix. I saw there were some inconsistencies in what I had been told about her, and for me inconsistencies are where stories lie.

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In this case they are Lucia, the American madam of a high-class courtesan house, and Violet, her spoilt child. There are clear parallels between Violet learning that her mother had a wholly different life — and another child — before her and the discoveries Tan, as a teenager, made about her own mother: Daisy fled to California and, unable to retrieve them, did not see her three surviving daughters from that marriage for 30 years. I suddenly felt that I had competition. Her mother became a nurse and her father a Baptist minister.

Amy Tan Biography

The family also moved around a lot; Tan spent her childhood in 10 different cities in the San Francisco Bay area, which, she has said, contributed to a deep sense of alienation. When Tan was 16, Daisy held a meat cleaver to her throat and threatened to kill her in an argument about her new boyfriend, and the pair did not speak for a year.

Tan was also fed a steady diet of stern warnings and strict woe-betide-yous. She wanted me to be in control. I know what it is like not to want to have a child. Tan and DeMattei have no children, and she has no regrets. And I was trying to distance myself from all that anyway.

Amy Tan: a life that's stranger than fiction

I recorded it all on videotape. Misfortune seems to find her.

She has been in two serious car crashes, robbed at gunpoint, almost drowned and, while at college, asked to identify the body of her best friend and flatmate, who had been tortured and murdered by intruders. And though she appears to be in robust health today, 14 years ago she contracted Lyme disease, an illness that causes neurological damage.