amy tan (doc)

(2021) – 101 min film – Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir – from here painful past to her successful career after ‘the joy luck club’ groundbreaking write amy tan shares her life story in this doc

Amy Ruth Tan (born February 19, 1952) is an American author known for the novel The Joy Luck Club, which was adapted into a film of the same name in 1993 by director Wayne Wang.

Tan has written several other novels, including The Kitchen God’s WifeThe Hundred Secret SensesThe Bonesetter’s DaughterSaving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement. Tan’s latest book is a memoir entitled Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir (2017). In addition to these, 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 that aired on PBS.

While Tan was studying at Berkeley, her roommate was murdered and Tan had to identify the body. The incident left her temporarily mute. She said that every year for ten years, on the anniversary of day she identified the body, she lost her voice

In 1998, Tan contracted Lyme disease, which went misdiagnosed for a few years. As a result, she suffers complications like epileptic seizures. Tan co-founded LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment. She wrote about her life with Lyme disease in The New York Times.

Tan also suffers from depression, for which she takes antidepressants. Part of the reason that Tan chose not to have children was a fear that she would pass on a genetic legacy of mental instability — her maternal grandmother committed suicide, her mother threatened suicide often, and she herself has struggled with suicidal ideation

Tan resides in San Francisco, California, with her husband Lou DeMattei (whom she married in 1974), in a house they designed “to feel open and airy, like a tree house, but also to be a place where we could live comfortably into old age” with accessibility features


notes/quotes from film:

2 min – i am a writer w a subconscious neediness to know.. which is diff from a need to know.. the latter can be satisfied w info.. the former is a perpetual state of uncertainty.. and a tether to the past

3 min – (written – from joy luck club book) my father has asked me to be the 4th corner at the joy luck club.. i am to replace my mother whose seat at the table has been empty since she died two months ago.. my father thinks she was killed by her own thoughts.. ‘she had a new idea inside her head’ said my father.. ‘but before it could come out of her mouth, the though grew too big and burst.. it must have been a ver bad idea’.. the dr said she died of a cerebral aneurysm..

tan’s talent shines thru her modesty

7 min – sandy: joy luck club started as an investment (stocks) group.. feast meetings.. there was this comfort level of being w like people

dad was a preacher till mom made him quit – poverty

9 min – this was a mother who would tell me.. you should never let anyone tell you what you should do or who you should be.. never let anyone talk down to you.. no one should tell you to get married or have children.. but.. you should have a job .. because if you do get married and your husband is mean.. you can leave him immediately..

11 min – told me lie w 6.. had been tested.. parents said.. you took this test.. and the lady said.. you are smart enough to be a dr.. so now i was going to be a dr and a pianist

12 min – when i was 9 .. my mother’s version of believing in me was believing i could be anything she wanted.. ie: piano prodigy

i resented the piano.. it was where i had to get everything right..

13 min – told mother i didn’t want to play piano anymore.. she said ‘fine go outside.. don’t have to listen to mother .. because soon i dead anyway’.. she was not a tiger mom she was a suicidal mother.. and that’s very diff from simply being a demanding mother who wants that kind of perfection.. she was.. ‘if you don’t feel the way i do.. i might as well kill myself’.. very diff


suicide threats as coping ness

15 min – i know the situations that would cause her to be almost insane.. was.. to her.. if you did not in her mind respect her.. ie: ignore her, critical of her, .. that was going to trigger suicide.. she had no way of coping w anything like that

16 min – car eposide ‘you want to go.. then go.. or i go first.. maybe i kill myself now.. then everybody happy.. opens door .. leans whole body out..’.. car stops.. mother still in car.. ‘i want to die’.. girl feels her cheeks and she’s crying.. and she doesn’t know when it started.. she just wants everything to be over..

18 min – writing was almost like letters to myself.. they had to do w angry feelings i had say.. towards my mother.. so like a confidant.. but it never occurred to me i could be a writer.. i wanted to be an artist.. drawing was very private and i could do it for hours.. i think what intruded was this notion it had to be perfect.. and i saw other kids who were better.. then ultimately.. art teacher said i wasn’t very creative.. et al.. seemed enough signs i shouldn’t pursue that.. my parents would be very disappointed if i did something that was just fun.. whether it’s encouragement or discouragement.. it stays with you..

21 min – dad and brother died w/in weeks of each other.. minister came and talked to me.. because i was reading a bad book – catcher and the rye.. minister said i was causing my father more pain than the tumor.. i cried.. he said not to cry and tickled me.. then threw me on the bed.. he tickled me all over.. and when he was done he said.. you have a very dirty mind and no one is going to believe you.. so i came out of that room a very angry girl.. i was a daddy’s girl.. i loved my older brother.. they were my protectors and they were gone.. i was left w this crazy suicidal mother..

22 min – after they died.. mother thought it was a curse.. she started seeing omens.. decided to move to holland because it was clean.. no idea where to live.. ended up drifting.. going to switzerland.. chalet..

23 min – what happened there was not only all the pent up anger i had had and was not able to express about the deaths.. it was now the freedom to have boyfriends.. be friends w rich girls who wore make up.. i started smoking.. i almost ran off and eloped w a germany army deserter..

24 min – we’d have many arguments.. i’d go into the bathroom and have dry heaves.. then come out placid.. trying to let her see she was not going to affect me.. part of my decision to not be like her at all.. to not have those emotions..

25 min – one day i came home and she was raged.. she locked me in the room and had a clever.. and said.. it’s time.. i’m going to kill you first and then son.. then myself.. then we’ll be w dad and peter.. i remember looking out the window and thinking this is it.. was so sad.. what came out of my throat ‘i want to live’.. that’s all i remember up until that point

27 min – after i found out i could graduate early.. i had my reason to leave home.. started dating lou.. a blind date.. i was in a sorority..

28 min – lou: it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.. it was more maybe cluelessness at first sight.. because i wasn’t adversely reacting to all the things that amy did to make it seem that she wanted nothing to do w me

he was built in a muscle way that i’ve always found unattractive in men.. i always feel that the amount of muscle mass detracts from the mass of the brain..

lou: w/in a month it was pretty evident we were going to make a go of it

his parents didn’t like me and were always trying to break us up.. nam ness.. he didn’t know how to stand up for me to his parents.. so said.. this is it.. so 4 months later we got married.. my father would have liked him

34 min – the notion that you could right and find out what you believed

37 min – i listened (to mom) to everything.. and that profoundly changed everything.. i learned a lot by simply being quite and actually listening..

45 min – terrible story of mother – what happens to a person when they leave their daughters behind .. the guilt..

53 min – my mother say danger in everything

55 min – after reading the book. my mother said.. ‘it was so easy to read’.. she knew it was fiction.. and she knew that i understood her

1:00 – joy luck club.. about the relationship mother/children.. quote form movie.. mother to daughter while giving her necklace to where.. ‘it will help you know.. i see you’

1:03 – writing was to give my mother a gift.. that i was really listening.. she loved the idea that she was helping me to write

mom quote in book – ‘so many years and still the anger does not come out’

1:13 – i felt the burden of expectations a lot

1:14 – music (band of authors) became outlet.. no expectations.. i feel like to have fun you sometimes have to take risks.. have to just be there and have a great time.. for a lot of risky things.. the potential for having fun is so much greater.. ie: used to be scared of ocean.. then went swimming w sharks et al.. i just loved that

1:17 – 1995 mom diagnosed w alzheimers.. but we’d never had recognized the signs.. language difficulties, gets into arguments, poor judgment, those were traits my mother had shown her entire life.. how could we distinguish between a chronically difficult personality and a a dementing one


1:18 – i think it was an urge she would never get rid of.. (suicide).. like an addict.. even though happy.. it was an impulse.. a desire that just came up and she couldn’t control it

1:21 – what is the past but what we choose not to remember..

1:24 – on getting lyme disease.. scarred brain.. got epilepsy.. still wrote more books

1:26 – (playing piano for mom.. making mistakes and laughing)

1:27 – 2 yrs into alz.. phone call.. her voice was like her voice from the past.. like she was coming up from depths of ocean.. and flailing.. trying not to drown again.. she said.. ‘i just want to tell you that i know i did some things to hurt you and i don’t remember what they are.. but i know i hurt you and i just wanted to say i’m sorry and i hope that you’ll forget just as i’ve forgotten’.. i don’t know what she was remembering but it was enough to erase everything.. everything she’d ever done to me.. then she was gone again.. didn’t talk like that.. once again incoherent.. unable to complete sentence.. shortly afterward.. she fell into a coma

1:30 – on why unintended memoir.. the past was always present in our lives

the test she was given.. dolores durkin.. 49 early readers.. 63 yrs of self esteem in front of me based on a lie.. had nothing to do w if i was smart enough to be a dr.. my father said i had always been a scribbling.. drawing and making about stories about them.. my father said ‘she had an amazing imagination’.. that was everything

1:32 – fastest book i’d written.. i’d write once/week.. come out of it shaking.. been afraid to write again to go into that mode

1:33 – undoing the mess.. each story at a time.. is the most gratifying part of writing.. but the mess will always be there..

lou – she’s at the point where she’d like to keep writing but not have the added pressure of publishing/business..

in 2016 i started to draw what i saw out the window.. it was bringing up this love i always had .. i f i could simply do what i wanted to do every day for a month.. i’d sit and look at birds and draw.. w no expectations.. the freedom to d what i enjoy had to have no expectations.. and that i did it only for myself.. didn’t have to be perfect et al.. it’s wonder/ment.. allowing no answers.. just have to observe it and be in wonder the whole time

spaces of permission .. with nothing to prove.. sans any form of m\a\p..

1:37 – has my imagination worked this way since bird? what enables me to draw a bird that looks like a bird.. whatever imagination is i’m grateful for its elasticity and willingness to accommodate whatever comes along.. circumnavigating a brain that finds emotional resonance in almost anything.. i just have to let go of self consciousness for it to spill out freely.. as if all i am doing is listening to music


what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening

ie: imagine if we


suicide {glossary}