Amy Tan’s Latest: Mothers, Daughters… By Jane Ciabattari NPR Books
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Author Amy Tan is especially known for her best seller The Joy Luck Club which was also a major film. Tan’s other best selling novels include The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and Saving Fish from Drowning. Her themes usually explore the relationships between mothers and daughters, historical connections to ancestors, comparisons of Chinese and American cultures, along with mysterious family secrets. Her latest novel The Valley of Amazement brings the same elements of historical information and mystery as her previous books.
“Family secrets, life-changing betrayals and the paradox of wondering about the old country while belonging to the new are at the heart of Amy Tan’s work. She enthralled readers of her phenomenally successful first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989), with the interlocking stories of four Chinese-born mothers and their four California-born daughters…
Thanks to a family mystery — the discovery of a photograph that raises the possibility that her own grandmother might have been a courtesan in China early in the last century — Tan focuses her new novel on the elegant and trend-setting first-class “houses of flowers” for which Shanghai’s international zone was once known.
The novel opens with Violet Minturn at 7, a “thoroughly American girl in race, manners, and speech,” who lives with her mother, Lulu Minturn. By taking a child’s perspective, Tan creates a sense of innocence, even wonder, at the goings-on in Hidden Jade Path. Tan sets the stage with sumptuous furnishings. As a child, Violet discovers Lu Shing’s landscape painting, “The Valley of Amazement,” among Lulu’s treasures.
Some three-quarters of the way through the novel, Tan loops back to tell the story of Lulu’s early years…By structuring the novel in this manner, Tan makes poignant how the fates of Lulu and Violet mirror each other in uncanny ways, and builds to her startling conclusion.” Read more…
FROM ESL VOICES:
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge
Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the author Amy Tan, her novels, and China. Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use this great Brainstorming chart from Kootation.com
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart by Freeology for assistance.
- Family secrets and the paradox of wondering about the old country are at the heart of Amy Tan’s work.
- She enthralled readers with The Joy Luck Club.
- Tan followed up with equally enduring portraits of fierce immigrant mothers.
- Tan focuses her new novel on the elegant “houses of flowers”.
- By taking a child’s perspective, Tan creates a sense of innocence.
- Tan sets the stage with sumptuous furnishings.
- Tan gives us a cast of finely drawn and idiosyncratic minor characters.
- After a series of wrenching betrayals, Lulu strikes back.
- Violet and her mother face ominous crossroads.
- She dallies with a smarmy American.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Accordig to the article the novel opens with 10-year-old Violet Minturn.
- Violet’s father is a Chinese diplomat.
- Violet’s mother had a happy childhood.
- Violet’s father, Lu Shing, met her mother in San Francisco.
- We learn that Violet’s father was from a little town in China.
- Violet discovered Lu Shing’s landscape painting, “The Valley of Amazement” when she was little.
- Lulu is lazy and rich.
- In the novel Violet was abandoned by her mother.
- Within the novel Tan loops back to tell the story of Lulu’s early years.
- LuLu meets an American who helps her.
Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Amy Tan enthralled readers with the novel The Joy Luck Club.
- Tan created portraits of fierce immigrant mother.
- There were courtesans in early China.
- The novel creates romance and illusion.
- From a child’s perspective, Tan creates a sense of innocence.
- Tan sets the stage by sumptuous furnishings.
- Was the painting meant to depict a feeling of hope?
- Violet and her mother reinvent herself.
- Tan gives a vivid picture of Violet’s journey.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea
Directions: Have students use this colorful graphic organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with discussing or writing about the main points from the article.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- Amy Tan’s novels revolve around themes such as difficult mother-daughter relationships, cultural comparisons between America and China, and family secrets. In your opinion, why are these topics so interesting to people?
- Which age group do you think read Tan’s novels? Provide reasons why.
- Which of the themes in Tan’s novels do you find most interesting? Why?
- If you could write a novel, what topics would you choose and why?
IV. Listening Activity
Video: Amy Tan Discusses her new novel ”The Valley of Amazement” with “CBS This Morning”.
“Best-selling author Amy Tan has written “The Valley of Amazement” about the world of high-class courtesans in Shanghai. Tan joins the “CBS This Morning” co-hosts to discuss her new book and what she uncovered about her own family during the research.”
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Amy Tan’s books have sold more than 5 million copies world wide
- Her books have been translated into 35 languages.
- Tan found a photo of her grandmother which led her to write this novel.
- Amy Tan’s grandmother was dressed as a courtesan in the photo.
- A courtesan was a woman who courted men in high-class brothels in Shanghai.
- In the novel the protagonist Violet is half American and half Chinese.
- According to Tan, the courtesan’s life was one of beauty and brutality.
- During this era, Chinese women were restricted in general.
- Tan wants readers to understand the book is about mothers and daughters, and how people are shaped by their circumstances or by choices they make.
Questions for Discussion
Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
1. After listening to this video has your personal idea of Amy Tan changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
2. Did you agree with everything the Tan said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
3. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.
Please come back again.