Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir

Amy Tan
FROM NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR AMY TAN, A MEMOIR ON HER LIFE AS A WRITER, HER CHILDHOOD, AND THE SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FICTION AND EMOTIONAL MEMORYIn Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels. Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning. 


Reviewed: 2020-07-01

The best description for this book/series in 10 words or less:

"Famous author writes about her childhood, culture, and trials." 


This novel is very different from her other books (because it is a memoir rather than fiction), but this novel has similar writing aspects to her fictional pieces. The book has a structure but a different kind of structure than all her other books. This novel is more fluid in the way that it goes from one idea to the next. Amy Tan makes reading this novel feel like it is like you're in a really nice dream and you're going for the ride.

The writing reminds me of concocting a chemistry experiment because this book is part journal, part diary, and part genealogy. The reader gets to be in the mind of Amy Tan as she writes with less restraint as she discovers more of her past and better understands both her life and family.

The way the parts are organized are creative and unexpected. Instead of titling for family or herself, she titles them with what people encourage others to do.

It's really interesting because you get a glimpse of how her characters in her books relate to people in her life, such as Amy Tan's mother as June's mother in The Joy Luck Club.

This memoir gives the reader an idea of what  Asian American culture is like in some aspects because not every Asian American family is the same, especially in different generations. Academics and music become emphasized on perfection and nothing short of it because Asian parents want only the best for their children through achievement.

There is very little that I disliked about this book. The only thing I wish Amy Tan explored more is her relationships with her brothers, particularly her younger one. Her older brother is written a little more than her younger brother.


Refer to my blog for a different view of this review:


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