Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)

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.

Dream Book Conference Panel!

Dream Book Conference Panel is today’s topic inspired by Eventbrite.  The question for this dream conference panel is: All true bookworms have their dream list of authors they’d love to meet, but what if you could plan your perfect panel of authors (or even characters) you’d love to hear speak at a conference?

While the most logical way of a conference would be to group authors writing the same genre to come together, I also feel that grouping authors that somewhat contrast their style or even in the time frame they write makes for a look at their creative process in a different way. See, just deciding how to put together panelists is hard enough. Here are some three groups of authors that I’d like to see be at my dream conference panel.

Young Adult

i am number four Maze Runner

My first group goes to the most common genre: Young Adult. Although I have been slowly falling out of the YA genre, I do quite admire the creativity these authors have done. Pittacus Lore is pretty much the elder of Lorien and he also is the author. Now, the question is no one knows what this person looks like. I mean, if he is from Lorien and reciting the Lorien Legacy, well, then he probably is an alien. While I am Number Four is a pretty disappointing movie, let me assure you that The Lorien Legacy series is one of my favorite Young Adult series and that is why I’d like to see how they created it. At the same time, James Dashner can be the same. He has created a story out of kids stuck in a maze and carried into a dystopian world. There is something here to learn from these two authors just how they build their creative process and brainstorm or fall into the characters that they created, whether it is character development or world building.

Thrillers & Mystery

Gone Girl Before I Go To Sleep The Cuckoo's Calling

Who wouldn’t want to be in a panel with authors who write captivating and intriguing mystery thrillers that keep us guessing with mind-blowing twist and turns. Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson and Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) needs to have a panel where they discuss how to build suspense and mystery. Thrillers are the tricky pieces of work, whether its books or movies, because they need to create a level of suspense that divulges enough information slowly to peak interest, build character enough to stay intrigued and make the reader want to keep guessing what is going on before most of the time making sure that it is absolutely the one thing they never imagined could happen.

Gillian Flynn is known mostly for Gone Girl but her other two novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places both have almost as good of a story. She has written three pieces of novels that are all intriguing to read, making her a person who needs to talk about the thought process of writing a mystery. Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is the only novel that I have read. His second novel is called Second Life which I need to find, however, its been a few years since I’ve read Before I Go To Sleep and I can still remember the feeling of suspense till today. Its a captivating read with lots of secrets. How do you keep secrets hidden and give just enough hints to keep it abstract and not ruin it? Finally, Robert Galbraith, who is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but I do this deliberately because I want to pick the brain of Robert Galbraith, the person who wrote a mystery thriller and is making a series out of it, making a new detective, Cormoran Strike, rise. We all know J.K. Rowling as the mastermind behind Harry Potter but we need to dial it back and learn how she writes for adults and thrillers.

Chinese in North America

Joy Luck Club water-rat-of-wanchai Everything I never Told You

Some of you might think this is an odd combination, or just the title of the conference might not be appealing. However, my take of having a panel of Amy Tan, who is the veteran in the writing about Chinese-American life and contrasts, Celeste Ng, who is a more modern version of writing about a Chinese-American family and some racism issues in their time frame and Ian Hamilton, who is writing a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and somewhat of a femme fatale/strong female figure, shows off the diversity of the characters and actually shows a bigger picture of not only writing about Chinese but in general, it can be useful when writing about other cultures and the difficulties of adapting to the new world or even racism while weaving it into a different genre.

The Joy Luck Club is pretty much pure fiction about mother and daughter relationships while Celeste Ng is the relationship of a Chinese-American family, taking on the different voices as they solve the mystery of their missing daughter and the secrets that are revealed might just help decipher what really happened. While, Ian Hamilton would bring in a fresh voice as a non-Chinese crafting the dangerous adventures of Ava Lee, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and has built quite the series as he takes Ava Lee to many different places in the world solving case after case. This panel could give good insight on what it is to be an author writing about Chinese culture and even seeing the world through someone with a different background and upbringing and/or family structure.

What would be your dream author conference panel? Why? 

Eventbrite is the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world that helps people find and plan events. If you are interested in looking for or planning conferences in your local area, this conference management page HERE may be something you would like to check out.