of arranged marriages and japanese invasions, of concubines and abortions

Currently I am reading The Joy Luck Club, a book written by Amy Tan, centering on four Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters.

I was quite apprehensive to reading this; it just did not seem interesting to me. When I started, however , I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps it is because I am reading the mothers’ chapters and they are telling of their lives and hardships in China. The topic of childhood and youth memories always interest me and even more so when the memories are different from the norm of my own (my childhood is mostly remembered by storytelling in the dark, apple picking from the numerous trees in the garden and waiting in agony and despair while the corn took hours to cook).

Living where I lived at an unfortunate time gave me a childhood different from most people. Maybe not as… giving, as some might have had, but I have been more fortunate than quite a few. I was definitely more fortunate than these women.

One lady, Lindo Jong, tells of her arranged marriage to a boy when she was only two. She was later made to live with him and his family, meaning she had to suffer his pickiness and insults and the mother’s demands and expectations.

Suyuan Woo had to leave on the day of the Japanese invasion, and to save her baby daughters and ensure a good future she gave them up and spent the rest of her life wanting to meet them again.

An-mei Hsu lived without parents and was raised to hate her mother for becoming a man’s concubine after her husband died. An-mei had an aunt who had no patience for children, and it was therefore not strange for her to slap An-mei and her brother if they misbehaved in any way.

Ying-Ying St.Clair gets taught she has to be meek and gentle as she is a woman, and that is not enjoyed by her in any way. She marries a man who turns out to be abusive as well as a cheater, and after she discovers she’s pregannt and subsequently has an abortion, she moves out and lives with her family.

I have not read enough yet to find out more about them as women in the present, but the events of their past has established them as compelling, strong women and I hope their daughters will be as intriguing.