The fifth-annual If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book program will feature the award-winning “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan as its reading selection. The “If All” community reading program is designed to bring readers together to share their thoughts on a specific title.

This year’s book is composed of 16 stories told through the eyes of four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters. One of the daughters, Jing-mei Woo, ties the stories together with her narration. The mothers, all of whom fled war-torn China in 1949 and settled in San Francisco, know a world far different from their daughters’ American upbringing.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, Woo’s mother founded a women’s social club with the three other women. It met weekly to sustain its members’ spirits by playing mah-jong, telling stories and sharing their lives as parents. Of course, the daughters found the desire to continue traditions from their lives in China hard to understand, even a little ridiculous. Then, after 40 years of meetings, when one of the four mothers dies, new truths about the club’s importance are revealed to her daughter. Readers, too, discover the powerful bonds between generations and cultures and the importance of family.

Published in 1989, “The Joy Luck Club” was Tan’s first novel and earned her the Commonwealth Club gold award for fiction and the American Library Association’s best book for young adults award in 1989. It was on the New York Times’ best-seller list for nine months. In 1993, Tan co-authored a screenplay for the book that she produced into a critically acclaimed film.

Born in Oakland, Calif., Tan is the daughter of Chinese-born parents. Her father died from a brain tumor while she was in her teens. During these same years, Tan learned she had two sisters from her mother’s first marriage still living in China. After meeting her sisters several years later, Tan has said, “I was finally able to say ‘I'm both Chinese and American’” and embrace her heritage. She then left her career as a technical writer in 1987 to begin working as a novelist.

She has been praised for her treatment of loss and reconciliation, hope and failure, friendship and familial conflict and the healing power of storytelling. Other works by Tan include “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” “The Hundred Secret Senses” and “The Year of No Flood.”

Indiana State University also has named this book its 2006 Summer Reading Selection.

Books are available for checkout at all Vigo County Public Library locations. For more information on the reading campaign or other library activities, contact Community Services at (812) 232-1113, Ext. 281, or log on to the library’s Web site at www.vigo.lib.in.us.

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