Amy the nationalists during 1937 -1949 . Globalisation

Amy Tan, Asian – American writer brings out
the experience of women , feeling of isolation and mother –daughter
relationship . Her works focuses on stifling shift of three generational
existences in their homeland China and their new abode America . It not
only  means and individual’s shifting
from one place to another but a group moving in search of new destinies . Their
shifting condition oscillates between twin identities , twin culture  , twin minds-set from their roots and routes
they have taken. Their oscillation results from pain and sufferings with their
strong emotional bonding of their cultures , traditions and values. The disrupting
traumatic condition , that one experiences while leaving the country of origin
involuntarily changes, their attitude and thinking  not only of the past but also the present and
the future as well.  The Hundred
Secret Sense Tan lucidly highlights the immigrants of  Chinese diaspora to America after the
tortured memory of the Sino – Japan war and the civil war between the
communists and the nationalists during 1937 -1949 . Globalisation marks the
culture and retains the connection between the homeland and the new land .


         Hyphenated Experience in Amy Tan ‘s

Asian Americans  are Americans of Asian descent . The US
census Bureau definition
of Asians as “Asian ”  refers to a person
having origins in any of the Indian sub continent . The term Asian American was
used informally by activists in the 1960 s with sought of an alternative to the
term Oriental , arguing that the latter was derogatory and colonialist . Formal
usage was introduced by academics in the early 1970 s notably by historian Yuji
Ichioka , who is credited with popularising the term . Today , Asian American
is the accepted term for most formal purposes, such as government and academic
research , although it is often shortened to Asian in common usage.

The challenges around defining Asian
American Literature are not unique and it indicate the issues of race, culture
and national identity that are endemic to United States history and culture.
The world’s best Chinese American author Amy Tan’s fiction reads the stifling
shift of three generational economic existence of the Chinese in their homeland
China and their new abode America. Most of the writers are of the view that
one’s homeland is a paradise to one. The new land would never become a paradise
to a displaced person . Amy Tan points out that a person should learn to live
amidst new situations to accommodate themselves in the country  of adaption . She highlights the
necessity  for abandoning the fixed and
stereotyped notions of the’ self       ,
home , nation and nationality’. She offers solutions to meet the unpleasant
situations in a host country and shows the ways to adept to the new trends and
ever new surroundings .

Post colonial theorists analysed the
problems that arise due to mass migration as people are always on the move for
various reasons in the post- modern world. The mass mobility results in losing
one’s native culture owing to dislocation . In the era of globalisation
movements and sudden jerks have become part of one’s life. It includes social ,
cultural and psychological shifts . The migrated people wander with twin
identities , twin cultures and twin mind – sets in search of their new
destinies . As Charu Sharma aptly says in his Mapping Migration, “old
symbioticties give way to new attitudes as one changes location  ” (xv). Upendra Nanavati in one of his
articles states as “tight rope walking and balancing between two cultures as
the victims ” (qtd. in Sharma xvii )

Rose Marie Perez Foster explains in his
writing as immigration is Trauma . This paves a way to the new significant and
potential for ‘ traumatogenic ‘ experiences that may lead to serious
psychological distress, Thomas tweed Crossing and Dwelling : A Theory of  Religion creates a typology of  three modes of religious mapping of the world
which fix Amy Tan’s portrayal of migrational transmutation . According  to Tweed migrational transmutation has three
types . The first is ‘Locative’ or ‘position’, emphasises a person belonging to
a place which is associated with the origin and considered it a sacred place.
The second type is ‘supra-locative’ or ‘movement’ focuses on transcending space
rather than being located in any one place. The third type is ‘trans locative’
helps the immigrant to move back and forth in history and geography, constantly
mediating between their homeland and their adopted land.

Most of the immigrants who left their
country since the 16 th century chose to settle in the United States , because
the United States is consider to be the land of democracy .  It became the multicultural  land , possesses proper justice for all and
the responses given to the immigrant in the new land colours their life and
moulds them to gain new experience too . Sometimes people try to  leave their country of origin. In the
twentieth century, mass migration happened in search of a new identity,
livelihood and somewhere  to escape from
their current situation.

Amy Tan , Chinese – American writer brings
out her personal experience in her novel The Hundred Secret Senses
. In 1945 , China wins the war, and pushes the Japanese imperialists out
forever . During  the war , Jack Yee is a
university student . He is married and has a 
child named Kwan. He promises his wife that he will send her money for
her livelihood . As a blessing in disguise , he goes to America holding some
other person’s document . He tells his wife to go and live with her sister Li
Bin –bin in Changmian and wait . “Once I’m in America , I will send for you and
our daughter, I promise “(THSS 180). He leaves his wife who is about to have
another baby and Kwan becomes helpless.

When the nationalists and communists are
fighting over China in 1948, Kwan’s father disguises himself with an adopted
name ‘Jack Yee’ from the papers which he has got from  a drunkard says , “During civil war , papers
like these were worth many men’s lives and fortunes…I can change my fate”
(THSS180). He knows that the war will make them fall from their line and throw
them to despair in no time. With a heavy heart, he leaves for America to start
his life a new and forgets about the past that he leaves behind . His jiffy
plan helps him to go to America to attain peace. In 1949, the communists take
over China and it is impossible for Yee to return to his five- year –old
daughter Kwan because no more planes or boats can leave or enter China. Yee is
“eager to be rid of his past , in a hurry to start his new life ” (THSS 180)
and he starts a new life with a new wife in America.

Changing up of the name while immigrating
from one place to another is quite common in an immigrant’s life and it is
their stride to show that they are becoming anew. Talking about the dilemma in
her own name Jhumpa Lahiri says in her interview with Jeffrey brown “It’s what
my world is , and I’ve always been aware of my (Gogol ) parents came from
Calcutta. I have found myself sort of caught between the world of left behind
and still clung to , and also the world that surrounded me at school and
everywhere else, as soon as i set good out of the door (28) This correlates a
smooth transcend with the sense of emotive feeling of Amy Tan as well. On the
one hand, change of name symbolizes a new identity to them in their new world
leaving the past  behind. But on the
other hand, it indicates their superficial living conditions in the new
environment. Their inner life still retains their eternal identity , China.

Amy Tan beautifully portrays the conflict
between the Chinese ancestors and the young Chinese-American daughter. Kwan’s
voice and presence is that of the ancestral mother. Jack started a new life in
America ad was happy with his profession , married Kensfield and had three
children ; Olivia , Kevin and Tommy . He never talked about his Chinese life,
but that does not mean that he was not haunted by the past. He was haunted and
thus he relieved his grieving heart at his death bed to the shock of Kensfield
. Though it was a shock for the  modern
American family to ever even think about another family in China , Kensfield
decided to identify Kwan and bring her to the U.S. thought of sponsoring Kwan,
as a foreign exchange student for a year and try to give her later a wonderful
American life. That is how the Chinese in Kwan started to mixing up with the
American in Olivia . Initially Olivia was not happy to welcome her half
–sister, who would be an addition to share the meager souvenir of her mother’s

Olivia’s mother is busy , had already no
time to spend with Olivia , in which a new comer is now to split the share. But
the busy mother find solace on making Kwan as Olivia’s caretaker . Olivia feels
grateful for her service , but at the same time she also resents her for having
taken her mother’s place . She becomes hysteric and screams, “She is not my
sister! I hate her ! I wish she’d go back to China (THSS 12).

Kwan instigated Olivia to learn Chinese
through her non-stop Chinese talk all through night at the common bedroom they
shared . She influenced her not only with the Chinese language but also with
the Chinese thoughts and secrets which changed her to look at the world in a
different way. Olivia disowned her many times and never helped Kwan with her
English though she used to earnestly request her. Both of them grew up with
their differences and after many years, Kwan seems to be same without any
change in her life style.

Tan’s plot abound in superstitious beliefs.
Most of the older generation of women who had migrated from China swore
allegiance to superstitious . Kwan teaches Olivia to swing Chinese nursery
songs. At night in the twin bed, Kwan keeps on talking how her life was touched
by hardships and personal tragedy . Everything is conveyed to Olivia in their
secret language , Chinese . Chinese is said to be the secret language between
Kwan and Olivia . She remarks , “Kwan infected me with it (Chinese language ) ”
(THSS 13). Though from childhood Kwan teaches Olivia the Chinese language whereas
Olivia teaches English to Kwan . The only change in Kwan’s English over the
last thirty years is in the speed with which she talks . “She thinks her
English is great . She often corrects her husband , George . ” Not stealed ,
” she  will tell him “stolened ” (THSS
23) . But the real fact is she could not even call her sister’s name correctly
. When Kwan was eighteen year she introduces more ghostly secrets seen through
her “yin eyes”(THSS 3) to her sister . Kwan promises her sister ” It’s true . I
have yin eyes . I can see yin people “(THSS 15). Unfortunately , Kwan’s Chinese
stories backfired and she is diagnosed of a serious mental disorder , and is
given electro shock treatments . Olivia worries that she cannot lead a
happy  life when Simon is in Elza’s
anamnesis . Olivia asks Kwan to have a talk with Elza ghost, Kwan says that she
will be comfortable if it is a Chinese ghost. But Olivia replies that it is a polish
ghost . Having yin eyes, Kwan talks about the life after death. She says “The
next is segregated ? you can go to the world of yin only if you’re Chinese” ?(THSS110).

Olivia asks her sister’s help to rescue Simon
from this unhealthy obsession , thus paving to be mixed with Kwan’s culture.
Kwan ,uses her husband secret senses, the hidden instinct and made Simon to
come  out of that Elza’s  thought. Olivia is glad , Simon forget Elza
and she says that Elza wishes him to marry Olivia but Olivia felt Elza
speaking, “Simon don’t forget me. Wait for me. I’m coming back” (THSS 107). She
ignores the hallucination in the bliss of marrying Simon.

They lived happily , after sixteen years of
joyful life they planned to get divorce due to ,mis understanding Kwan is
determined that they should not be divorced. The Chinese mind try to protect
love, whereas American mind always leads to another way and made a conclusions
about Simon’s love, which was totally different from Kwan’s opinion. This cause
trouble between Kwan and Olivia.  If she
had listened to her sister, she would not have lost her sister in the cave and
suffer throughout with the guilt. Kwan insists they to go on a trip to china
hoping that the trip to china would save the hositility between Simon and

Amy tan shows explicitly that, though her
character are assimilated in America and almost blends with the mainstream in
many ways , it is only their homeland that provides salvation for the oppressed
heart. She gives a balanced detail about both the countries, their positive
aspects and negative aspects. It is true that the immigrants enjoyed better
life in the migrated country, but at the same time the inner peace can only be
provided in the motherland.

Olivia and Simon are not interested to go
along with each other but Kwan insist them that they can still come to china as
friends. When Olivia was thinking about the name she shall have after divorcing
Simon, she realised that her identity was not a standard one. “I realise I’ve
never had any sort of identity that suited me, not since I was five at least,
when our mother changed our last name to Laguni” (THSS156).

From Laguni she had come to be known as
Olivia lee than to Olivia Bishop. “She was a model for multiple personalities”(THSS
157). She thought she was suffering from multiple identities. She planned to
change her name as to Yee , which relates to her father’s name. Kwan discloses
the secret and warms her not to go by any wrong name because Yee was not their
father’s real name, it was stolen from American drunken robber. Both of them
set on a pace to search for their father’s original opportunity to go to china,
because many people in Changmian might still remember their father’s name. Once
the name is found;

and me, the two of us, we can change our father’s name back o its true one.
Together we can send him at last to the world of yin” (THSS 163)

Kwan is very happy in going back o her
country where she lived until she was eighteen years old. She would see her Bigma
and reunite with her schoolmates. Most of her schoolmates have not survived the
cultural revolution, she was lucky to be in America alive with a family for
herself and having a decent life. Her life in America was comparatively happy.
This was possible only because of migration.

Life in America is also not very easy.
Hoping for a better life in America, everyone aspires to immigrate. It is a
pre- requisite to  equip them to suit the
country’s environment. Kwan did not refine her English even after lived nearly
thirty years in  America still she could
not differentiate between ‘apparent’ ‘parent’ and ‘stink’. Consequently she
suffers with the problem of language. As the Chinese find difficulties in
coping with America , so does Olivia struggle to cope with the Chinese life

In china Olivia finds a lot of difference
between America and Chinese life style. On the very first day Kwan instructs
her not to sleep beyond five in the morning. ” This is china. Everyone else is
up. Only you’re asleep “(THSS186). She further instructs “your American idea
doesn’t work here. Kwan goes on “. In china you always  responsible for someone else, no matter what”
(THSS199). Law was practised china. Olivia’s American way of logical reasoning
suddenly disappears, when she loses Simon in the cave.

In the process of rescuing Simon, Kwan  loses her 
life, through her help again they were reunited. However American Olivia
is , the Chinese in her has been in her blood which made her to think about her
sisters preaching about the hundred secret senses. She had learnt the reality
of life from Kwan :

world is not a place but the vastness of soul.

the soul is nothing more than love, limitless,

all that moves us toward knowing what is true.

once thought love was supposed to be nothing but bliss.

people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary sense . (THSS 358

Having taken the memory of the country of
their origin to the host country, these immigrants get accustomed to the new
environment , even though it is their new destiny in their life after facing
the harsh realities during the war in china . But on the other hand their sense
of belonging is still in oscillation, placing their foot firm in the new land,
psychologically , their thoughts and mindset oscillate to and from the country
of origin and the place they have adopted .But their next generations fulfil
their dreams by visiting the country of origin . Some of Tan’s characters
witnessed their origin china as a transformed modernised china and pointed out
as ‘Americanized China ‘.

In fact, towards the end every character in
Tan’s fiction realizes that they do not want to leave their heritage behind as
Lahiri resolves in one of her fiction The Namesake,  “Things that should never have happened, that
seemed out of place and wrong , these were what prevailed , what endured , in
the end ” (287) Bridging the gap between the native land and the adopted land ,
the individual and society , from various cultural upheavals , the diasporas
spread liberation in the modern era. Cohen rightly portrays.

, the sense of uprootedness, disconnection, loss and estrangement, which

traditionally – recognized diasporas hitherto morally appropriated , may
now                             signify something more general about the human
condition. Why not celebrate the

enriching side of living in ‘Babylon’,the radiance of difference ? (174 ).

Tan accomplishes the real and unreal as the
prime focus in  The Hundred Secret
Senses , where Olivia towards the end finds herself believing that ” truth
lies not in logic, but in hope “( THSS 398 ).  
This novel links both time and space. It bridges the two continents
through the experiences of the mothers and the daughters culture and ethnic
identity are possible to the daughters only they can fully understand and
identify themselves with their mother through the various stages in attaining
womanhood. The cultural experiences are shared between the mothers and the
daughters from isolated monologues into meaningful dialogues . Tan has
successfully brought for the shifting up of the character from china to the
United States to China. Generally setting include geographic location in which
the story takes place and the historical moment in time of imperial China,
about ancient Chin and Qing dynasties .

The women’s vulnerability finds assurances
of security which allow its setting of ‘real’ character or ‘natural’ character
in the cross – cultural relations has been liberated from its ‘ fictitious ‘overlay



Marie Perez. Theory ”  When immigration Is Trauma : Guidelines for
the Individual and Family  Clinican “. American
Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(2), April 2001, American Orthopsychiatric
Association , Inc  

Lahiri , Jhumpa  The Namesake.Boston: Houghton , 2003.

Tan,Amy The Hundred Secret Senses. Newyork:
Ivy Books,1995.