February 19th: Nicolaus Copernicus & Amy Tan

Today’s animated Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (born on this date in 1473). I’ll be posting about someone living in a completely different time and working in a completely different field: author Amy Tan.

Tan was born on February 19, 1952, and is the author of The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife, along with her other novels, a memoir, and several children’s books. She also adapted The Joy Luck Club into a screenplay, which became the acclaimed film of the same name. Many of her works deal with female identity and the relationships between mothers and daughters, particularly in a Chinese American context.

Writing was a later career for Tan, who pursued a doctorate in linguistics, worked as a language development consultant, and founded her own business writing firm long before she joined a writing group. Fiction writing began as a hobby for her, though soon a series of short stories launched into The Joy Luck Club and its considerable commercial success. This first novel was a New York Times bestseller for eight months.

Amy Tan, photographed by Robert Foothorap in 2007.

Amy Tan, photographed by Robert Foothorap in 2007.

Tan’s work has received or been a finalist for many prestigious literary awards, including the National Book Award, the Orange Prize, and both British Film Academy and Writers Guild nominations for best adapted screenplay.  The Joy Luck Club was a selection for the “Big Read” program of the National Endowment for the Arts, and was included in Library Journal’s list of the most influential 20th century fiction. Her novels have been selected as notable books by the American Library Association and the New York Times.

Her next novel, The Valley of Amazement, is due out in Fall 2013.

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