My dad once said to me, "You give a lot of books three stars." I do.
I thought this book was a memoir, and it is, but it's really a collection of essays. The early ones were really interesting and held my attention, but now I'm almost to the end of the book and it's dragging.
The repetitions, which felt like nice connecting points the first few times are too much now. Also, "Required Reading and Other Dangerous Subjects" was a very strange reading experience. Like, yes authors should write what they like but can you please stop using the term minority? It covers that question that I don't think anyone has an answer to which is how much responsibility does an author of color have when writing. I agree with Tan that authors should write what they want and that authors of color are often held to impossible standards. But at the same time, I think some of the criticisms against Tan are valid (why doesn't she portray Chinese men in a positive way?). I kept going back and forth agreeing and disagreeing with Tan throughout the whole essay and in the end I found the whole thing dissatisfying.
But the rest of the book is pretty good. I especially liked the essay on The Hundred Secret Senses and wanted more about her writing of that book because I think it is by far Tan's best.
Don't make this your first Amy Tan. In fact, I'd say you should have a pretty good grasp on Amy Tan and her works before you pick up this book. At least have a working knowledge of The Joy Luck Club (book and film), The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetter's Daughter.
I finished the book. I'm not sure why the book ended with the essay it did (a long piece about a mystery illness). The book was published in 2003, and there was some about 9/11 in the last few essays so maybe that tone felt right at the time? The book started strong, but my interest dwindled at the end. I'd recommend it to anyone who's read a lot of (early) Amy Tan (fans and critics) because I think it sheds some light on her books, and her life has definitely been interesting.