Literapedia Book Notes for

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan


  • Jing-Mei Woo (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the daughter of Suyuan Woo, who is forced to play the piano by her mother and later receives her “life’s importance” from her mother.
  • Suyuan Woo (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the mother of Jing-Mei and founder of the Joy Luck Club, who left Jing-Mei’s half-sisters behind in China.
  • An-Mei Hsu (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the mother of Rose Hsu Jordan. An-Mei lived with her mother after being separated from her for much of her childhood.
  • Ying-Ying St. Clair (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the mother of Lena St. Clair. She led a privileged life as a young girl and has the ability to “know things before they happen.”
  • Lindo “Lin” Jong (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the mother of Waverly Jong. She escapes an arranged marriage and comes to America where she works in a fortune cookie factory.
  • Waverly Jong (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the daughter of Lindo Jong. She becomes an accomplished chess player but dislikes her mother’s involvement. As a young woman she is engaged to Rich.
  • Rose Hsu Jordan (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the daughter of An-Mei Hsu. As a young girl she deals with guilt over her role in her youngest brother’s death and becomes comfortable with herself through her divorce from her husband, Ted.
  • Lena St. Clair (Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club)the daughter of Ying-Ying St. Clair. She struggles as a young girl to face her mother’s depression and as a young woman struggles with the very pragmatic relationship she has with her husband, Harold.

Chapter Summaries

(Please note: Chapters do not have numbers, and as such are listed by chapter title within each section of the book.)

Part I: Feathers from a Thousand Li Away

  • “Preface”: A woman brings a swan with her to America when she emigrates from China, but the swan is confiscated, leaving her with only a feather. She wants to tell her daughter the story of the swan one day in perfect English.
  • Jing-Mei Woo: The Joy Luck Club: Jing-Mei replaces her mother as the “fourth corner” of the Joy Luck club, a group of four Chinese women in America who meet to play mah-jong and tell stories about their lives. Suyuan Woo’s story of leaving China and her two children behind is related.
  • An-Mei Hsu: Scar: An-Mei relates the story of her mother’s return for An-Mei’s grandfather’s death and how An-Mei received the scar on her neck.
  • Lindo Jong: The Red Candle: Lindo tells the story of her arranged marriage and her subsequent escape from that marriage by lying to her mother-in-law about having ominous dreams foretelling the marriage’s doom. She relates the story of blowing out her marriage candle on her wedding night.
  • Ying-Ying St. Clair: The Moon Lady: Ying-Ying relates the story of going to the Moon Festival as a young girl, during which she spoils her clothing and misses most of the festivities. She falls off the boat and wishes to the Moon Lady “to be found.”
Part II: The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates
  • “Preface”: A mother tells her daughter not to ride her bike around the corner because she will fall off the bike and get hurt as described in the book The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates. The daughter disobeys her mother and falls before she even reaches the corner.
  • Waverly Jong: Rules of the Game: Waverly tells the story of how she became a skilled and award-winning player as a little girl and the conflict that arose between her mother and herself as a consequence.
  • Lena St. Clair: The Voice from the Wall: Lena describes memories of her mother in which her mother taught her to fear, as well as the appearance of her mother’s obsessive compulsive tendencies and Lena’s attempts pull her mother back “through the wall.”
  • Rose Hsu Jordan: Half and Half: Rose tells the story of her relationship, marriage, and impending divorce with Ted, as well as the story of her brother’s drowning when she was a little girl, and the role that faith has played in her mother’s (and her own).
  • Jing-Mei Woo: Two Kinds: Jing-Mei describes her mother’s quest to make Jing-Mei a prodigy. She details her subsequent piano lessons and failure at piano recital as the first of many times that she disappointed her mother.
Part III: American Translation
  • “Preface”: A mother advises her daughter against putting a mirror at the foot of her bed, but doubles the “marriage happiness” by placing a mirror at the head of the bed as well.
  • Lena St. Clair: Rice Husband: Lena describes her mother’s knack for knowing about things before they happen, including knowing that Lena would “marry a bad man” by looking in her rice bowl when Lena was a little girl.
  • Waverly Jong: Four Directions: Waverly describes how she first recognized her mother’s weakness and strength in trying to tell her mother of her engagement to Rich.
  • Rose Hsu Jordan: Without Wood: Rose describes how she takes control of her life and her divorce and gains confidence in herself.
  • Jing-Mei Woo: Best Quality: Jing-Mei tells the story of the dinner after which her mother gives her a jade necklace that she calls her “life’s importance.”
Part IV: Queen Mother of the Western Skies
  • “Preface”: A grandmother prays that her infant daughter will teach her “lose her innocence but not her hope.”
  • An-Mei Hsu: Magpies: An-Mei describes her life living with her mother, who is one of five wives to a wealthy man named Wu Tsing, her mother’s suicide, and how she “learned how to shout.”
  • Ying-Ying St. Clair: Waiting Between the Trees: Ying-Ying tells of her first marriage to a “bad man,” how she came to marry the husband of her daughter, Lena, and how both she and Lena have the spirit of the tiger.
  • Lindo Jong: Double Face: Lindo describes the beginning of her life in America and how she met An-Mei and her husband working at the fortune cookie factory, and the double-identity that she and her daughter have as Chinese Americans.
  • Jing-Mei Woo: A Pair of Tickets: Jing-Mei and her father go to visit their family in China after her mother’s death and to meet Jing-Mei’s two half-sisters, the the babies that Suyuan left in China before she escaped. Upon their meeting, Jing-Mei discovers her mother’s “long-cherished wish.”

Book Note Creator

Alex Wiles, '08