On The Same Page 2007
white flower Cover of The Joy Luck Club
  1. Why do you think that these four women managed to make their way from China to America? Do they each have a particular strength that allowed them to make this life-changing transition?
  2. While growing up in China, these women heard many stories from their elders-stories which served to provide guidelines for living-however superstitious those guidelines may have been. What methods do American parents generally use to impart wisdom and to teach their children about the world? Do you think that these methods are more effective than storytelling?
  3. "Normal" teen-age rebellion is very difficult for these mothers to understand. Do you think that parents in our culture are more accepting of this phase of personal development? Is that for the better?
  4. Each of the women in the novel has faced difficulties in marriage. What are the differences in the sort of choices that have been available to each generation? What are the similarities?
  5. The monthly meetings of the Joy Luck Club have continued since 1949. What sort of cultural rituals do we have that serve the same purposes? What are those purposes?
  6. In most families, there is a pull between the elders, who want to honor the past, and the subsequent generations, who are more concerned with the possibilities of the present. Do you agree?
  7. What lessons have the mothers learned from their daughters?
  8. What lessons have the daughters learned from their mothers?
  9. The structure of the novel is that of several stories woven together to create a larger picture. How is this similar to the telling of stories in the Chinese culture? Did you find it difficult to extract meaning from these stories? Are American readers accustomed to a different approach?
  10. Did you enjoy reading this book? Would you recommend it to others?
  11. Can you recall any other novels that are similar to The Joy Luck Club?
  12. Is there an aspect of this novel that has changed your way of thinking about the experience of immigration? Do you know anyone who has had the experience of adjusting to a different culture?
  13. Discuss the stories that are told by one of the mothers and her daughter. To assist in this focus, here is a synopsis of the characters:
    • Suyuan Woo-founder of the Joy Luck Club whose recent passing has left a space at the Mah-Jongg table. She left baby daughters behind in China when fleeing the war.
    • Jing-mei Woo-daughter born in America who takes her mother's place at the table. She travels to China in order to connect with the half-sisters who were left behind.
    • Lindo Jong-cleverly opted out of an unfortunate arranged marriage in China. Came to the US on her own, married and had three children.
    • Waverly Jong-daughter who became a chess champion and an attorney. She has a young daughter, Shoshanna, from a brief early marriage, and is engaged to marry Rich, who is not a part of the Chinese-American community. Waverly has achieved much but still fears her mother-s disapproval.
    • An-Mei Hsu-her mother was a concubine who committed suicide. An-Mei spent her early years with grandmother 'Popo.' Married with seven children, An-Mei never fully recovered from son Bing's accidental death.
    • Rose Hsu-daughter who allows husband Ted to make all of her decisions until the marriage disintegrates.
    • Ying-Ying St. Clair-from a wealthy Chinese family, her early marriage ended in shame and she eventually met an American importer who took her to the US.
    • Lena St. Clair-daughter whose marriage to Harold is marked by rigidity and coldness. Lena has taken on her mother's quality of always deferring to her husband's opinion.