BY LISA ALCALAY KLUG
IN A ;;st-century tree house
perched above San Francisco
Bay, petite author Amy Tan
appears dwarfed by expansive picture windows. Her
imagination, however, soars
like the region’s abundant
seagulls. Surrounded by
nature in her “House of the
Future,” Tan has been mining her past for this month’s book buyer’s pick,
Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.
While writing her ;;;; novel, The Valley of
Amazement, Tan often emailed her HarperCollins editor, Dan Halpern, such entertaining
musings on the project that he suggested crafting them into a book. After an experimental
draft didn’t fly, Tan shifted focus, contemplating
the creative process instead. Still, some of their
missives landed in the resultant accidental
memoir, which Tan dedicated to Halpern.
“This was an unintentional book,” says Tan,
a Costco member. “I was going to write about the
elements of writing, the question of creativity.
The more I realized what was influencing my
creativity, I found myself writing about my life
and the emotional core of my life.”
In conversation, Tan shares even the most
shocking stories matter-of-factly. “My mother
nearly killed me with a cleaver,” says Tan, adding
that she loved her mother nonetheless.
Complexity between Chinese women and
American-born daughters is pivotal to Tan’s
work. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, con-
sists of ;; tales about four such mother-daughter
pairs. A New York Times best-seller, the book has
been published in ;; languages, and was turned
into a play and a ;;;; film (Tan wrote the script).
Her second novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife, was
another New York Times best-seller. Her fourth,
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, became a ;;;; opera.
Her novel The Hundred Secret Senses explores
Tan has also authored two children’s books.
PBS broadcast an animated adaptation of one of
them, Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat. Yet she
has no children. “It was a conscious choice,” she
says, her two tiny dogs puttering nearby. “There
were a lot of things I wanted to do in my life. I
knew it would be difficult to do those things
without a lot of support.”
Born in Oakland, Tan grew up in numerous
cities. During her teen years, her father, an
immigrant engineer who became a minister,
and her brother, Peter, died within six months
of each other from brain tumors. Her mother,
once a socialite in China, moved the family to
Switzerland, where Tan finished high school.
After leaving graduate school in California, Tan
excelled as a corporate freelance writer.
Workaholism led to two creative alternatives:
fiction writing and jazz piano. “Fiction won out
over jazz,” Tan says.
Her passion for music explains a black grand
piano overlooking sweeping views. A member
of the Rock Bottom Remainders (now disbanded), a rock band of professional musicians
and published authors, including Dave Barry
and Stephen King, Tan doesn’t perform solo.
Objets d’art celebrating Chinese culture
abound. When immersed in a project, Tan writes
downstairs. Her husband of more than two
decades, Lou DeMattei, a retired tax attorney,
often brings her meals.
While composing her memoir, Tan sought
occasional breaks and was literally rattled, trembling from intense revelations. Her memoir
spans everything from a newly discovered species of terrestrial leeches bearing her name to
gripping detail. “Weekly epiphanies brought
back a lot of childhood feelings,” she says.
Years ago, Tan contracted debilitating Lyme
disease. Her striking home, recently featured
on the cover of Arts & Crafts Homes magazine,
embraces what may come. “We built this house,
the ‘House of the Future,’ so we never have to
move,” Tan says.
This strategy reflects a
“I like my flaws,” Tan says.
“I like who I am. So if I
changed my past, I wouldn’t
be who I am.” C
Lisa Alcalay Klug is a
regular contributor to
The Costco Connection.
HOW I LOVE a juicy memoir!
AUTHOR AMY TAN TELLS
I don’t mean the scandalous
tell-all kind (although those
have their place). I mean the
kind filled with insight and
introspection. The kind that
gives you a new understanding
of the author. This month’s
book buyer’s pick, Amy Tan’s
memoir, Where the Past
Begins, delivers the kind of
emotional mining that I enjoy.
Best known for novels such
as The Joy Luck Club and The
Bonesetter’s Daughter, Tan
proves that her fact-based
writing is just as beautiful as
her fiction. In Where the Past
Begins, she writes with both
intimacy and honesty, and the
result is a book that is both
lush and shocking. It will
surely appeal to fans of Tan
and those interested in the
craft of writing.
Where the Past Begins
(Item #1195240, available now)
is available in most Costco
warehouses. A limited number
of signed copies are available
online at Costco.com. For more
book picks, see page 57.
—Pennie Clark Ianniciello,
THE TALE OF HER OWN LIFE
Costco has 50 signed copies of Amy Tan’s Where the Past Begins to give
away. To enter, go to costcoconnectionbookgiveaway.com.
NO PURCHASE, PAYMENT OR OPT-IN OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Sweepstakes is sponsored by Costco Wholesale,
1045 Lake Drive, Issaquah, WA 98027. Open to legal residents of the U.S. (except Puerto Rico)
who are age 18 or older at the time of entry. One entry per household. Entries must be
received before the December issue is available online, which will happen around November
26, 2017. Winners will be randomly selected and noti;ed by mail on or before January 1,
2018. The value of the prize is $28.99. Void where prohibited. Winners are responsible for all
applicable federal, state and local taxes. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible
entries received. Employees of Costco or HarperCollins and their families are not eligible.
SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY
AR TS & ENTERTAINMEN T