Amy Tan was born in Oakland, California. Her family had lived in several communities in Northern California before settling finally in Santa Clara. Both of her parents were Chinese immigrants. John Tan her father was an electrical engineer who came to America to escape the Chinese Civil War. Amy was brought up with two brothers. Tragedy struck the Tan family when Amy's father and oldest brother both died of brain tumors within a year of each other. The family moved to Switzerland, where Amy finished high school.
She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in these fields at San Jose State University. In 1974, she married her boyfriend Louis DeMattei. They later settled in San Francisco. She soon developed an interest in the problems of the developmentally disabled.
With a partner, she started a business writing firm, providing speeches for salesmen and executives for large corporations. After a dispute with her partner, she became a full-time freelance writer.
Amy Tan prospered as a business writer. This type of work continually frustrated her. She studied jazz piano, hoping to use the musical training forced on her by her parents in childhood, to be used as a personal expression. She also began to write fiction.
Her first story Endgame got her admission to the Squaw Valley writer's workshop taught by novelist Oakley Hall. A literary agent, Sandra Dijkstra, was impressed enough Teed 2 with Tan's second story Waiting Between the Trees, to take her on as a client. Dijkstra encouraged Tan to complete an entire volume of stories. Dijkstra found a publisher for the book, now called The Joy Luck Club. Tan finished her book within four months.
Upon its publication in 1989, Tan's book won great reviews and spent eight months on the New York Times best-seller list. Her subsequent novel, The Kitchen God's Wife confirmed her reputation and enjoyed excellent sales. Since then Amy Tan has published two books for children, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat and two novels The Hundred Secret Senses and her latest, The Bonesetter's Daughter.