The Hundred Secret Senses” by Amy Tan 2008 Amy Tan was born on February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California of immigrant parents. Spending her early childhood in San Francisco Bay Area, Tan studied in Montreux, Switzerland and studied for her Masters Degree in Linguistics in San Jose University (luminarium. org). Hence, Tan has had a perfectly western upbringing and education yet she has not been able to shrug off her Chinese identity. Despite having written in all the leading American literary magazines, like The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar and National Geographic and her novels been best-sellers and recipient of a number of awards including The National Book Award and the L. A.
Times Book Award for her first book, The Joy Luck Club, Tan has not been considered as a mainstream American writer (luminarium, barclayagency. com). Instead, she has been acclaimed as the Asian American role model by community organizations despite her claim that her creations are not social statements but simply literature that talks about human connectedness (Salon, 1995). Perhaps in her sub-consciousness, Tan finds her Chinese identity too powerful to be discarded even if she tries to.
Instead, she weaves the Oriental spiritual ideas as well as the symbols and character traits from China in her books that are mainly set in America. Olivia, the protagonist of her novel, The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), is Tan’s alter ego, trying to discard her Chinese identity and assimilate with the mainstream American culture but finally reconciling to her social identity that hinges on finding her life’s meaning through spirituality. Like Olivia, Tan is a Chinese-American and suffers from the conflict of this dual identity.
Yet, she knows that neither she nor Olivia can never discard their Chinese identity completely. To make Olivia recognize this, Tan uses Chinese symbols and ideas that draw Olivia towards China. She harps on animal instincts and symbols from Chinese lives, tempered with a western view of these, that Olivia finds interesting. In the novel, The Hundred Secret Senses, Olivia is born of an American mother and Chinese father. At the age of six, she comes to know of her so-long undisclosed Chinese sister. To add to her woes, her father’s death-bed wish is to get his elder daughter, Kwan, over to America.
After the father’s death, the 18-year old Kwan joins the reluctant American step-family and begins on an intense relationship with them, particularly with the much-younger Olivia, whom she calls “Libby-ah”, almost like the nation of “Muammar Qaddafi”.
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