資料彙整   /   作家  /  Amy  Tan  譚.恩美
Amy  Tan
譚.恩美
圖片來源:
主要文類:Novel
資料提供者:Julia Hsieh/謝佩璇
關鍵字詞:Essay; Novel; Chinese American Female Writer

譚恩美
1952-
Julia Hsieh/謝佩璇
 

 生平簡介
 作品簡介

 


 生平簡介 

一、家庭暨教育背景

譚恩美於一九五二年的 二月十九日出生在美國加州奧克蘭市,為譚家華裔美人第一代。譚氏夫婦於一九四九年國共內戰後期、中共逐漸得勢時逃亡海外。身為具有電機工程師背景的牧師,譚父與原為執業護士的譚母,在美初期曾帶著年幼的恩美四處遷徙居住,甚至於在譚父與恩美兄長因腦疾過世之後,譚母帶著年僅十四歲的恩美與其弟前往瑞士居住直到她自高中畢業。在瑞士,恩美叛逆的性情曾經與其母關係劍拔弩張,她曾於專訪中透露,正直叛逆期的她曾有離家與男友私奔的企圖,但總還是努力勉強撐過高中生活。譚母於一九六九年帶著兩名子女返美,並在加州的聖塔克拉拉市定居下來。恩美自青少年時期便與其母相處不易,母女往往在爭吵衝突之中而冷戰而疏遠,譚氏曾經於訪談中提及與母親曾經歷冷戰時期,完全失去聯繫長達半年之久。

一如許多華人父母親對於子女往往期望甚高,譚母亦然。由於她希冀譚氏從醫,因此自譚市甫自高中畢業,返美不久後,譚母便將其女註冊位於奧瑞岡州的麥克敏市林菲爾德醫學院就學。儘管她曾嘗試尋其母之期望學醫,入學不久後,因工作機會而認識了未來夫婿盧.德邁堤的譚氏,在不顧母親的反對之下,毅然棄醫學,跟隨德邁堤轉至聖荷西市立學院繼續學業。轉至文學院主修語言學的她,於畢業時獲得語言學與文學雙學位。其後,譚氏於聖荷西州立大學畢業,在一九七三年獲得語言學碩士學位,並基於她優異的表現,加州大學柏克來分校給予其全額獎學金繼續攻讀博士學位。譚氏於 博士課程的第二年因故放棄學業,轉從事語言發展顧問,其夫德邁堤從事稅務律師事務繁忙,也讓譚氏對於經濟狀況無後顧之憂,得以繼續積極幫助語言障礙學童。由於譚氏的語言專業與她對語言學的熱衷,在語言發展顧問的事業上軌道後,不久她爭取到某醫學期刊的編輯職務,也因此,她開始與文學領域結下不解之緣,甚至在卸下醫學期刊的編輯職務之後,她轉業從事商業科技寫作。

然而,富裕的經濟環境並未讓譚氏對於她的生活產生成就感,由於長期抑鬱不樂,譚氏決定尋求心理醫療協助,盼能為其生活重拾樂趣信心。在屢次求醫卻並未達到效果,特別是在一次失敗的心裡諮詢療程後,譚氏決意以寫作為自我療養方式,開始認真的記錄並為尋求心理平靜而寫作。


二、對於譚氏生命與作品的巨大影響


譚氏成長的過程中,長期與母親處於緊張衝突,卻又維持血濃於水的親情恩情關係,加上華美兩世代的價值觀與母親對於她的寄望甚高,在鋪陳她的小說情節時,造成不少戲劇張力。譚母早年生活及其背景對譚氏而言充滿了傳奇。譚母生於上海望族,母親靜梅(音譯)在丈夫過世之後,因緣際會認識上海富商,卻在一次出遊時慘遭玷污,因此被迫納為富商小妾。靜梅忍辱負重將女兒(譚母)帶進富商家,在自盡之前將自己慘痛的遭遇告誡女兒。譚母成年之後早婚離家,卻遇人不淑,與傳統沙文夫婿育有三女,後因與其夫無法和睦相處、屢遭施暴而逃脫婚姻關係,前夫也因此不僅完全剝奪譚母探視女兒的監護及探視權,並且加害其入獄長達兩年。 譚母 從事護理工作, 於 中日八年抗 戰時 結識譚父,兩人相戀並於國共內戰後期移民美國,在加州進行福音浸信會傳道。

譚氏最富盛名的兩部出版小說有相似的主題中心-傳統價值教育下的華人移民第一代母親與二代(華裔)女兒之關係。 經由譚母的口述傳奇和譚氏本人自小所受的嚴苛標準規範,以及她外祖母的人生經歷、其他女性友人親屬的故事等等題材都在譚氏小說中,附會穿鑿從小由父親所傳承的中國民間信仰、傳說、意象等文化教育,與第二代所接受的美式教育、價值觀,種種衝擊建構之下,成為她筆下豐富的小說故事。這些多樣而有趣的題材再加上她技巧性的鋪陳敘事,造就了她橫掃全美、全球的首部小說,也讓譚恩美成為家喻戶曉的華美作家。

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作品簡介

由其意志力堅定又充滿傳奇的母親所撫育養成,譚氏藉著作品出發,為她自身經歷的愛恨交織的母女關係,對她嚴苛的母親給予她的喜樂與悲怨,寄與她的厚望卻為之帶來心理上沈重的負擔等情緒作抒發。譚氏作品中充滿幼年時所聽信的中國民間故事、鬼怪迷信、宗教信仰,這些題材都在她堆砌成文本的過程中,成為引人入勝的一章章精彩而戲劇化的小說情節。

一、《喜福會》


譚氏的首部小說原本只是單獨出版的文章群出現在不同的主要發行雜誌期刊上。在一名代理商對其文感興趣,並鼓勵譚氏集結出版之後,譚氏考慮邀約並慎重打算將發表過的短篇故事整理、貫連成冊發行的同時,譚母因病住院,譚氏心理上害怕失去母親的恐懼更使她想為母親達成心願的想法油然而生,因此決定出版小說。於是經由剪輯、組織整理過後,《喜福會》以四對母女的故事為背景,敘事不同時代背景的華美兩代辛酸血淚。

在《喜福會》裡,幾乎每一個故事都有譚氏、 譚母、以及靜梅(譚氏外祖母)的影子。 在《喜福會》裡,譚氏詳細刻畫兩代母女之間的衝突矛盾、愛恨情愁和進退兩難的情境。中國母親與華美第二代女兒彼此由不同的文化經驗而學習、適應、而傳承與妥協之中,亦敵亦友的母女對立關係成為中心主題,而家族密史、種族衝突歧視、女性受父權社會壓迫而噤聲、而求反抗,以及兩代身分認同上的差異等概念,都成為造就《喜福會》小說中的各個女性角色悲喜怒怨的重要指標。

儘管某些書評認為譚氏過分鋪陳裝飾《喜福會》,這部小說使得譚氏成為暢銷小說家,不僅為她贏得不少獎項的肯定,也被翻譯成二十多種語言流通於世界各地。當各界對於譚氏首部小說所造成的風潮給予高度的讚揚,書評杭特立指出:儘管譚氏宣稱其寫書的對話對象並不只是針對特定的華美族群,其關心議題也並不只侷限於亞裔美人經歷,他的作品中所隱含的普世價值、關懷與世界通行的主題,透過譚氏的《喜福會》華美小說的題材,特別為離散故土的族群文化以及她所代表的美國少數族裔發聲。



二、《灶君娘娘》


除了將錯綜複雜的家族傳說故事搬進文本,譚氏在這本小說中繼續以母女文化價值迥異的二元關係為中心,探討婚姻、兩性平等、身分認同發展、友情與文化融合等等多樣題材。值得一提的是,譚氏以其父親作為此部小說中的關鍵人物寫照,在故事中,讓吉米.路易的人生經歷奇遇對於主要人物偉莉有深切的影響,一如譚父之於譚氏。


三、《通靈女孩》


譚氏的第三部小說藉中西對等迥異的文化傳承等題材再將母女關係複雜化,提升另一境界。美國女孩奧莉微亞的同母異父姊妹-可婉-甫來自中國便與奧莉微亞同處。奧莉微亞在可婉敘述的中國傳奇故事之中成長,成年之後與夫婿賽門與姊姊一同踏上中國之旅,原本問題重重的婚姻關係和亦母亦姊的親情之中,奧莉微亞經歷似靈異的第六感經驗而對於人生有更深刻的體悟。

就書評的立場,一部份的書評,像是史帝芬.蘇禮士便高度認同《喜福會》的教育意義和華麗的文字鋪陳;馬禮尼.舒耶勒則強調譚氏文字中的再現與身分認同議題的意義。另一方面,馮品佳特別指陳審視《通靈女孩》內含神祕主義元素的可信度以及譚氏誇張而刻意的營造輪迴場景。 儘管往往有評論出現質疑譚氏所營造過度的中國女性卑屈遭遇、她充滿爭議性的通俗呈現可能已遭扭曲的中國神話、民間傳奇以及迷信等問題,譚氏小說不僅是暢銷書排行榜上的常勝軍,也藉著她的故事激發多層面而廣泛的討論與重視。

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Amy Tan
1952-
Julia Hsieh/謝佩璇
 

 Biographic Sketch
 Her Works

 


 Biographic Sketch

A. Family Background and Education

Amy Tan was born on February 19, 1952, to John and Daisy Tan who immigrated to United States to escape from the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the communist took over the country. Born in Oakland, California, Tan lived and moved several times with her father, who was an electronic engineer and a Baptist minister, and her mother, a vocational nurse. When she was merely fourteen, Tan and her brother Peter moved to Switzerland with Mrs. Tan after John Tan and the eldest son of the family died of brain tumors. There in Switzerland, Tan managed to graduate from high school as a foreigner, striving to live with her mother through arguments and family turmoil. In 1969, the family moved back to States and settled down in Santa Clara, California. The constant conflict between Tan and her mother lasted for some time so that they did not contact nor communicate with each other for half of a year.

Like many Chinese parents' expectation of wanting their offspring to become medical doctors, Tan's mother was no exception. Mrs. Tan has high expectation on Tan and hence she sent her off to Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, for her medical education. Despite faithfully committing to her mother's wish, Tan met Lou DeMattei and followed him to San Jose City College to continue her study. She changed her study subject to linguistics and graduated as a double major: BA of linguistics and English. San Jose State University granted her a master degree in linguistics in 1973, and after that, she was admitted as a doctoral student in linguistics with fellowship in University of California at Berkeley. Yet, she decided to quit the program after one year and began to work as a language development consultant. By then, she has become Mrs. DeMattei, and the family was prosperous with Lou's tax law business and her own career of helping disabled children. The job later got her a position of editing a medical journal. But after 1983, Tan switched to be a business/technical writer.

The blooming financial environment, however, did not bring along happiness for Tan. She was mentally troubled and hence began to seek for professional psychological help. After a failure of psychological counseling session, Tan set her heart to writing for curing herself. She then started to write to share and to cure.

B. Significant influence on Tan and her work


It is the constant conflict with Daisy Tan, her mother, and the emotional turmoil that Daisy has bestowed on her that have made Tan discover the resources of scheming her successful novels. Daisy Tan's early life and biographical stories were legends themselves. Grew up in an old esteemed family in Shanghai, she witnessed her mother's tragic life. After her scholar husband's death, Jingmei, Tan's maternal grandmother, was raped and taken as a low-ranked concubine by a wealthy industrialist. She brought Daisy with her to live in the wealthy family in Shanghai and confided her dilemmatic suffering with her daughter before she committed suicide. Daisy grew up with painful loss of her mother and got married early, but she did not live a happy life afterward; instead, Daisy was maltreated by her violent and abusive chauvinist husband Wang Zo that later took away her right of visiting her three daughters, and further had her persecuted to prison for two years after she escaped and divorced him. During the Sino-Japanese War, she flew with John Tan, a brilliant student who rejected MIT's offer but attended Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, and thereafter, they immigrated to States.

Tan's first two and the most well known works put one theme center-staged – the relationship of the traditional immigrant mother and the second generation Chinese-American daughter. In accordance with Daisy's stories and Tan's own childhood hardship, growing up under severe supervision and with high standards for everything, she schematically tells the story of her mother, her grandmother and other female related or unrelated acquaintance, along with the aids of the ancient folklores, stories and legends that she learned from her father when she was a child. Through her skillful writing techniques and brilliant story-telling, Tan's first publication of the first novel swept the world and her name has the become a household one.

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 Her Works

Raised by a determined mother whose legendary biographical stories are already fascinating, Amy Tan explicitly expressed her love-hate relationship with her strict mother who had one time mentally tormented her with overloaded expectation and emotional dramatic reactions. Fed with ancient Chinese legends, folk stories, traditions and superstitious beliefs, Tan grew up in a bicultural environment, feeling the complexity and difficulty in her life, just like many second-generation Chinese-Americans.

A. Joy Luck Club


This first novel of Tan's was not meant to be a novel, originally; yet after her story appeared in several major magazines, an agent came to her and encouraged her to compile all those interesting short stories into a novel that is addressing to the community. Tan accepted the idea and initiated her writings avidly. Furthermore, there was Daisy's depression and heart attack that almost took away her life; all of the misfortunes brought Tan clear acknowledgement of the fear of losing her mother and the fulfillment of her mother's wishes. The short stories were hence arranged, organized and published as a novel with the plot interwoven with four pairs of mother-daughter relationships.

Within each female character in Joy Luck Club, there are shadows of Daisy Tan, Daisy's mother and Tan. Tan depicts the conflicts, love, upheaval, entangled and the dilemmatic situations between the elder generation and the younger one. The conventional Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters learn from each other through the pivotal events and issues such as rivalry, female defiant position against the patriarchy, family secrets, racism, the search of self and identity and the silence which is usually the undertone of suffering, anger, acquiesce or submission.

Despite that some critics regard Tan's overall manipulation in Joy Luck Club, the novel turns Tan's name a worldwide well-known one. The novel is translated to more than twenty languages and endorsed by major awards. Yet, while most readers and critics received the writer as a powerful and marvelous story teller, Huntley pointed out that "Tan contends that Asian American issues – particulary Chinese American life – are not the primary driving force behind her writng" (38) when she faces the label that categorizes her as an "Asian American writer." Huntley considers her works revealing universal concerns and themes, but regards her voice as one that speaks out for "a distinctive diaspora culture" and for the ethnic minority of her kind.

B. The Kitchen God's Wife


In addition to the family history as the main scheme for her second novel, Tan continues the discussion of the mother-daughter dyad between two generations and further weaves in the issues of marriage, gender equality, identity-development, friendship and cultural dislocation. What's worth mentioning is that Tan takes her father as the model for the character of Jimmy Louie, whose stories and history have strong impact on Weili, the protagonist.


C. The Hundred Secret Senses


Tan's third novel further complicates mother-daughter dyad by juxtaposing the binary oppositional experience of the ancient orient and the modern occident. The half sisters of Olivia, the American gal, and Kwan, the Chinese young woman, adding up Simon, Olivia's husband, go on a trip to China. The business trip makes the couple of Olivia and Simon face the problem of their marriage in the eye, and with Kwan's role of replacing the absent mother, Olivia experiences the myth of reincarnation.

In terms of the book reviews, on the one hand, critics like Stephen Souris deems The Joy Luck Club educational and opulent, and Malini Johar Schueller stresses the significance of Tan's dealing with the issue of representation and identities with the language (Xu 370). On the other hand, Pin-chia Feng finds the mysticism in The Hundred Secret Senses unconvincing and the scenarios of reincarnations somewhat overdone. Although there are controversies over Tan's schematic writings that she endeavors to do the suppressed Chinese women justice, and there are doubts on her problematic and melodramatic usage of Chinese myths, legends and superstitions, and on the issue of her representation of China, Tan's novels not merely are bestsellers, but inspire her readers and arouse discussion and attention in many ways.

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Reference
Feng, Pin-chia. "Amy Tan." Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 173. American Novelists Since World War II, Fifth Series. Eds. James R. Giles and Wanda H. Giles. Bruccoli Clar Layman Book. Gale, 1996. 281-289.

"Amy Tan." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Gale.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Amy Tan: A Literary Companion. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

Huntley, E. D. Amy Tan: A Critical Companion. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Xu, Wenying. "Amy Tan." Asian American novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. 365-373.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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