‘Joy Luck Club’ and Beyond: The Best Amy Tan Books for the Classroom


Amy Tan, an acclaimed Asian-American author, has penned numerous novels that depict the lives of Chinese-American families and delve into the cultural complexities and intergenerational tensions. Her skillful storytelling and intricate characters offer rich reading experiences for students in every classroom. In this article, we will explore some of Tan’s best works to incorporate into your curriculum.

1. The Joy Luck Club (1989)

‘The Joy Luck Club’ is Tan’s debut novel and remains one of her most iconic works. This powerful story comprises interconnected narratives of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. The novel explores themes of cultural identity, mother-daughter relationships, and the emotional hardships faced by immigrants as they navigate two worlds. This classic piece of literature offers a wealth of discussion opportunities for students, facilitating an understanding of diverse perspectives.

2. The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991)

This novel closely follows the life of Chinese-born Winnie Louie as she shares herStories with her daughter Pearl. As Winnie narrates her experiences surviving an abusive marriage in China, students gain insight into Chinese culture and history. ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife’ is a moving tale that emphasizes the importance of family ties and perseverance, fostering empathy among readers.

3. The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2001)

In ‘The Bonesetter’s Daughter,’ Tan introduces protagonist Ruth Young, who discovers a manuscript authored by her mother LuLing that details her life in China before immigrating to the United States. The novel alternates between Ruth’s life in San Francisco as she cares for her aging mother battling dementia and LuLing’s life growing up in China in the early 1900s as a bonesetter’s apprentice.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter is an engaging exploration of love, sacrifice, and cultural identity that presents mature topics suitable for older students.

4. Saving Fish from Drowning (2005)

Although Tan’s ‘Saving Fish from Drowning’ veers away from her typical formula of multigenerational, female-centric narratives, it provides significant opportunities for classroom discussion. The novel follows a group of American tourists who embark on a harrowing adventure in the jungles of Burma. With themes of cultural clashes, morality, and political turmoil, this novel pushes students to ponder ethical questions and fosters critical thinking skills.


Amy Tan’s enticing novels capture the essence of Asian-American experiences with her candid exploration of cultural identity, family dynamics, and personal growth. Incorporating Tan’s novels into your curriculum will encourage inclusivity, empathy, and understanding among your students. Add ‘The Joy Luck Club,’ ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife,’ ‘The Bonesetter’s Daughter,’ and ‘Saving Fish from Drowning’ to your reading list to offer engaging texts that broaden cultural horizons.

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