Author Amy Tan Explores Her Family Story with New Perspective

Nov 27, 2013

Author Amy Tan was in town for the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Monday night speaker series
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Through her new novel The Valley of Amazement author Amy Tan explores the struggles of mother-daughter relationships.

She says the staging of the book's characters in a Chinese courtesan house, was partly inspired by what she learned from an old photo of Chinese women, which reminded her of her grandmother.

Early 20th century photo of Amy Tan's grandmother, served as inspiration for Tan's new novel
Credit Amy Tan

"The photo showed 10 women and 5 of them were wearing an outfit identical to what my grandmother was wearing in my favorite photo of her that sits on my desk and serves as my inspiration.  These women were courtesans. 'The 10 beauties of Shanghai 1910-1911' And that's exactly when my grandmother's photo was taken."

Tan says the photos made her want to explore her grandmother's story further than before, and to explore the worlds of these women.

"I thought about how we're born into certain families, we have a birthright of some kind, and all of this changes over time depending on what has happened to us."

Amy Tan was in town earlier this week as a guest of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures.