Cue Sheet - Valley Performing Arts Center

Plan-B Entertainment presents
The Joy Luck Club
Recommended for
grades 6-12
The Joy Luck Club contains sixteen
interwoven stories about conflicts between
Chinese immigrant mothers and their
American-raised daughters. The book
hinges on Jing-mei’s trip to China to meet
her half-sisters, twins Chwun Yu and Chwun
Hwa. The half-sisters remained behind in
China because Jing-mei’s mother, Suyuan,
was forced to leave them on the roadside
during her desperate flight from Japan’s
invasion of Kweilin during World War II. Jing-mei was born
to a different father years later, in America. Suyuan intended to
return to China for her other daughters, but failed to find them
before her death.
Jing-mei has taken her mother’s place playing mahjong in a
weekly gathering her mother had organized in China and
revived in San Francisco: the Joy Luck Club. The club’s other
members—Lindo, Ying-ying, and An-mei—are three of her
mother’s oldest friends and fellow immigrants. They tell Jingmei that just before Suyuan died, she had finally succeeded in
locating the address of her lost daughters. The three women
repeatedly urge Jing-mei to travel to China and tell her sisters
about their mother’s life. But Jing-mei wonders whether she is
capable of telling her mother’s story, and the three older women
fear that Jing-mei’s doubts may be justified. They fear that their
own daughters, like Jing-mei, may not know or appreciate the
stories of their mothers’ lives.
The novel is composed of four sections, each of which contains
four separate narratives. In the first four stories of the book,
the mothers, speaking in turn, recall with astonishing clarity
their relationships with their own mothers, and they worry
that their daughters’ recollections of them will never possess
the same intensity. In the second section, these daughters—
Waverly, Jing-mei, Lena, and Rose—relate their recollections
of their childhood relationships with their mothers; the great
lucidity and force with which they tell their stories proves their
mothers’ fears at least partially unfounded. In the third group
of stories, the four daughters narrate their adult dilemmas—
troubles in marriage and with their careers. Although they
believe that their mothers’ antiquated ideas do not pertain to
their own very American lifestyles, their search for solutions
inevitably brings them back to their relationships with the older
generation. In the final group of stories, the mothers struggle
to offer solutions and support to their daughters, in the process
learning more about themselves. Lindo recognizes through her
daughter Waverly that she has been irrevocably changed by
American culture. Ying-ying realizes that Lena has unwittingly
followed her passive example in her marriage to Harold Livotny.
An-mei realizes that Rose has not completely understood the
lessons she intended to teach her about faith and hope.
Arts Education at Valley Performing Arts Center:
Synopsis cont’d.
voice: she speaks for Suyuan in the first and fourth sections,
the two “mothers’ sections,” of the novel. Suyuan’s story is
representative of the struggle to maintain the mother-daughter
bond across cultural and generational gaps; by telling this story
as her mother’s daughter, Jing-mei enacts and cements the
very bond that is the subject of Suyuan’s story. When Jingmei finally travels to China and helps her half-sisters to know
a mother they cannot remember, she forges two other motherdaughter bonds as well. Her journey represents a reconciliation
between Suyuan’s two lives, between two cultures, and between
mother and daughter. This enables Jing-mei to bring closure
and resolution to her mother’s story, but also to her own. In
addition, the journey brings hope to the other members of the
Joy Luck Club that they too can reconcile the oppositions in
Although Jing-mei fears that she cannot adequately portray her their lives between past and present, between cultures, and
mother’s life, Suyuan’s story permeates the novel via Jing-mei’s between generations.
As a child, Amy Tan
believed her life was
duller than most. She
read to escape. Her
parents wanted her to be
a doctor and a concert
pianist. She secretly
dreamed of becoming an
artist. She began writing
fiction when she was 33.
Her first short story was
published when she was
34, and three years later,
she published her first
book, a collection of short
stories called The Joy Luck Club, which the critics reviewed as
a novel.
Amy was born in the United States in 1952, a few years after
her parents immigrated from China. Her father, John, was an
electrical engineer and also a Baptist minister. Her mother, Daisy,
left behind a secret past, including three daughters in China and
the ghost of her mother, who had killed herself when Daisy was
nine. The Tan family belonged to a small social group called The
Joy Luck Club, whose families enacted the immigrant version of
the American Dream by playing the stock market. Nearly every
year, the Tan family moved, from one mixed neighborhood in
Oakland after another and eventually to a series of nearly allwhite suburbs in the Bay Area.
Amy won an American Baptist Scholarship to attend Linfield
College in McMinnville, Oregon. There, in 1970, she met Lou
DeMattei on a blind date. They have been together ever since.
Amy then went to San Jose City College, then to San Jose State
University, where she earned her B.A., as a President’s Scholar,
with a double major in English and Linguistics. She attended
both the University of California at Santa Cruz and San Jose
State University for her Master’s Degree in Linguistics in 1974.
She went on to study linguistics in a doctoral program at UC
Berkeley. At the end of her education, she owed $250.
In 1985, in an attempt to find meaning in life, she started to write
fiction in her spare time. She attended a fiction workshop at the
Squaw Valley Community of Writers. There she met writer Molly
Giles, who gave her advice on a flawed short story with too
many inconsistent voices and too many beginnings of stories.
“Pick one and start over.” Giles’ suggestions guided Amy to
write the multiple stories that would become The Joy Luck Club,
published in 1989. Today, Amy serves on the board of the Squaw
Valley Community of Writers. The National Endowment for the
Arts chose The Joy Luck Club for its “Big Read” program. She
has lectured internationally at universities, including Stanford,
Oxford, Jagiellonian, Beijing, Georgetown both in Washington,
D.C., and Doha, Qatar.
Arts Education at Valley Performing Arts Center:
• Chinese people make up a
little over 20 percent of the
world’s population.
• In China, a person’s family
name comes first, followed
by the first name. There is
no middle name.
• Giant pandas are a national treasure in China. There
are about 1,600 pandas living in the wild today.
• The Great Wall of China is 30 feet wide, 50 feet
high, 3,700 miles long, and it took hundreds of years
to complete.
• The Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar
calendar based on the cycles of the moon. The date
varies from year to year but typically falls in January
or February.
• The compass, paper, gunpowder, and printing are
called the Four Greatest Ancient Chinese Inventions.
Other Chinese inventions include fireworks and ice
• China is the homeland of tea, and its cultivation
dates back two thousand years.
• Mount Qomolangma (also known as Mount Everest),
the highest point in the world, is located between
China and Nepal.
• The three most popular Chinese family names are Li,
Zhang, and Wang.
• In ancient China, Chinese characters were written on
animal bones, turtle shells, silk, or bamboo slices.
1. Please be on time for the performance. Since
transportation is not always predictable, plan to arrive at
least 30 minutes prior to the performance.
2. No eating or drinking in the performance halls. (Special
arrangements can be made to eat a snack or lunch
3. Please turn OFF (not vibrate or silence modes) all cell
phones, electronic games, or any other devices that
might make noise during the performance.
4. Talk only before or after the performance. Remember
that other audience members near you are trying to
enjoy the performance as well. However, appropriate
responses to the performance, such as laughing or
applauding, are appreciated.
5. Please act with maturity during romantic, violent, or
other challenging moments that might arise during the
6. Please keep your feet on the floor and not on the seats
around you.
7. P
ersonal hygiene (for example, combing hair, applying
make-up, etc.) should be attended to in the restrooms.
8. Please stay in your seat after the performance concludes
until you are instructed to leave.
9. P
lease exit the performance hall in an orderly fashion.
10. MOST IMPORTANTLY: please open your eyes, ears, and
mind to the entire theatrical experience!
NEA’s The Big Read site with many Lesson Plans,
Projects, and Further Resources:
Penguin Group Reading Guide with Amy Tan Interview:
Arts Education at Valley Performing Arts Center: