Amy Tan's writing style is characterized by her depiction of Chinese American mother and daughter relationships. In particular, she explores how generational differences present relational challenges.
Born in America to Chinese parents, Tan's formative years were influenced by her parents' strong Chinese traditions and her own desire to embrace American culture. She eventually learned that her mother left China to escape an abusive husband before giving birth to Tan and that her mother had other children she was forced to leave behind in China. This knowledge influenced Tan's work when she began writing fiction as an adult.
Although her parents wanted her to pursue a medical career, Tan chose to obtain a degree in English from San Jose State. She also received a master's degree in linguistics and later worked as a technical writer before job burn-out caused her to begin writing fiction as a form of therapy.
Her first novel, "The Joy Luck Club," became a literary success and was also adapted into a film. Like her subsequent works of fiction, the book explores the dynamics between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American daughters. Tan's writing is particularly praised by critics because of her ability to write convincing Chinese American dialogue.