Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)
Director: James Redford
A look at the life and work of author Amy Tan. – IMDB
Being best known as the author of 1989’s novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan has grown to become a fiction novelist who writes stories about Chinese immigrant stories and Chinese mother-daughter relationships along with their different experiences. This documentary recounts her biography as well as her writing career and how she came into writing and the inspirations behind the novels that she’s written. Using both old photos and videos as well as interviews with family members and other authors and publishers and interviews with Amy Tan herself, it forms a look at how her career started as well the inspirations from her real life as she learned more about her mother over the years of their dramatic relationship together as well as her past that crafted her into that the author that she is today. At the same time, it also pulls footage from The Joy Luck Club movie to draw certain relatable scenes.
Its hard to say whether a documentary like this is more appealing for those familiar with Amy Tan’s work and yet for myself, I’ve only ever read The Joy Luck Club and watched the film adaptation, making me not exactly knowledgeable about Amy Tan’s work either but doesn’t detract from the fact that her debut fiction novel which were quite revolutionary as a reading experience as it was relatable to a certain extent in terms of being a Chinese daughter and the relationship as well as having a family history that might seem like it was crafted as a film but actually may have been the reality for some people from the previous generations. That didn’t hinder the fact that this documentary shared much more than just her biography but through it also shared a person who found herself as an author and the consequences of her fame and the controversy of how people viewed her portrayal of both Chinese people, culture and how much of it felt like stereotypes that stemmed over the years.
What makes Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir quite a great watching experience perhaps is that Amy Tan herself is a fascinating person to watch. Her life experiences and her recounts of her relationship with her family to the discoveries that she makes as she dives into her mother’s recollection of her own experiences all opens up something new. She feels like such a down to earth person whether its her approach of how she started writing or being clear on how to not deviate from her path as an author and what she is writing. As the documentary dives between her family history and how each of these life elements come into play and how each of her published books come to view, its a great reminder that Amy Tan is much more than just her debut fiction novel The Joy Luck Club and that there’s so much more to discover.
Overall, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is quite a decent watch whether or not you are familiar to her work (in my opinion). Her experiences and her life is one that is full of drama and once the realization that a lot of her work is inspired by her mother’s life, it brings on a whole different meaning as she shares a bit of her own family’s history and experiences. A well-rounded documentary taking it on a biographical angle but also look at writing and the point of view of an author.