Amy Tan: Where the Past Begins

Tan’s beautiful, poignant memoir reveals her writing process, her love for language, her frightful experience with and appreciation for music, and her family conflicts and tragedies. Tan’s relationships with her immigrant parents, in particular, are powerful and heartbreaking. She writes about her dad: “Among fathers, he was a great father. But I also realize this painful truth: he loved God far more than he loved me.” She speaks her mind on religion:

His fear did not turn me way from God. It made me reject the notion that God must be constantly pleased and feared. If my father were alive, I would try to talk to him in his framework of Christianity. I would tell him that I can’t worship a God who is synonymous with prohibition and the threat of punishment. Fear, I think, is the worst element of religions of all kinds. It is used to justify more fear, as well as hatred, lack of compassion, intolerance, and war.

On politics, Tan speaks eloquently from an Asian-American voice:

Today, the day after the 2016 presidential election, I am disillusioned—devastated and angry. My party lost, and the unthinkable has happened. America has changed overnight. It has already shown that it will be governed under an openly racist agenda, one that sees immigrants as the cause of economic woes, crime, and terrorism. A significant percentage of the public are expressing their antipathy to anyone who does not look like he or she is white, heterosexual, and conservative.

Although the book is a bit too long, it is an engaging and thoughtful read.