Amy Tan: “It’s My Life”

BBC World Service — Outlook

Amy Tan with Matthew Bannister, December 2, 2013, promoting her new book, “The Valley of Amazement.”

AT: I’m fascinated in self-identity, who we become as a result of inheritance and inheritance of trauma or influences or you know things sudden like the publication of that book [Joy Luck Club] — I never expected it to be a success. How do we change? What don’t we change?

MB: Your mother had left behind a husband and three daughters in China. . . .

AT: I remember that my mother was very unhappy with me, and that suddenly she told me this and my feeling was she was saying “I wish that they were here and not you.” . . .  It was unfathomable that a mother would leave her children. And the sense of abandonment that they felt.

MB: You got in touch with them.

AT: And of course I’m thinking that this could have been me, I could have been the daughter abandoned. Here in China, this would have been my life, working the rice fields, bent over picking leeches off my legs.

MB: And I wonder if they also looked at you. . . .

AT: They, I’m sure that they did. In fact one sister who said she wanted to be a movie actress, “but I rusted so long that I never would be able to be so now, because my mind is rusted.” And it stunned me to think yes, you know, that question of who you become as a result of being told who you are all those years, you know, you have to be very strong to say “No, despite what you’re saying, I still have this life.”

The voices of those authority figures echo in our ears all the days of our lives.

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