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Friday, February 19, 2021

The 'Extreme Privilege' of a Writing Gift

  “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone else.” – Amy Tan

Born in 1952 Tan said that while growing up she didn’t have a lot of books in the house, primarily because her immigrant parents did not read English.   But, she said “Words, to me, were magic.  You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation, or whatever.  It was amazing to me that words had this power.” 

Tan did not start out to be a creative writer.  In fact, she wasn’t a writer at all.  She first worked as a switchboard operator, carhop, bartender, and pizza maker – all grist for her writing mill. 

Then she became a business writer.  But she had this nagging feeling that she ought to tell her own story – if not to share with others, at least to get down for posterity.  So she wrote The Joy Luck Club.  Now translated into 35 languages, it has become, arguably, reflective of every immigrant woman’s experience.  In 1993, it was made into a successful movie. 

Tan has written other bestselling novels, including The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter and become known as a writer of mother-daughter relationship novels. Her kids' book Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat was animated for PBS.   And she did a spot encouraging children to write.
Also a gifted musican, Tan performed for years in a unique “all writer” rock band.  The band - The Rock Bottom Remainders - raised millions for charity.  Others among its writer-members were Dave Barry, Robert Fulghum, Barbara Kingsolver, Roy Blount, Jr., Cynthia Heimel and Stephen King.  

“It's both rebellion and conformity," she said,  "that attack you with success.”



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