The Joy Luck Club

Book review by
Michelle Hong, Common Sense Media
The Joy Luck Club Book Poster Image
Sweeping story of bicultural mother-daughter friction.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Chinese culture and history come to life in this novel that weaves the stories of eight women. Four immigrant mothers recount stories from the lives they led in China, and their four Chinese-American daughters describe the experience of growing up straddling two very different cultures and dealing with their Old World mothers.

Positive Messages

Mothers and daughters strive to understand each other despite generational and cultural gaps.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four mothers are strong and self-sacrificing and devoted to their children as they withstand the struggles of immigration and transition to a new, foreign culture. The four Chinese-American daughters show growth as they learn to appreciate their mothers' hardships.


There are references to illness and death during the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949/50). In one chapter, the grandmother of one of the daughters cuts the flesh of her arm to make soup for her mother, because apparently it shows true love to your mother to feed her your own flesh.


While there are no sexually explicit scenes, in one of the stories it is understood that a couple has sexual relations. The mother of one of the characters is a Fourth Wife and must be sexually available to her husband at his whim.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The use of opium is mentioned, and one character kills herself by consuming opium.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Joy Luck Club weaves the stories of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their four daughters into a richly satisfying novel. The mothers' experiences in China  inform how they bring up their daughters in America, and the girls must figure out how to navigate their own lives, drawing on what they have gleaned from their Old World mothers and their American childhoods. Mothers and daughters of all cultures will appreciate the miscommunication, heartache, and unconditional love that flow through the novel. (It's been translated into 35 languages.) You may want to check out the 1993 film version.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysleeson January 8, 2021
Teen, 15 years old Written byariel.monae August 18, 2016


Its an amazing book that helps young adults understand the Chinese culture and traditions from a different time period and from several different aspects, but t... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byperson654 June 12, 2014

Rape scene

Near the end of the novel there is a non consensual, iffy scene. The book is really good but this part might trigger people and also not fantastic for young peo...

What's the story?

Four Chinese immigrant women form a mahjong club in the late 1940s in San Francisco, dubbing themselves The Joy Luck Club. Over the course of 40 years, their stories unfold as they raise their daughters in a country quite different from their own. Mothers and daughters learn to navigate relationships as they imperfectly translate one another and the opposing cultures. Seeking to find their identities as women, mothers, daughters, and wives, they find joy in the lives they create.

Is it any good?

THE JOY LUCK CLUB skillfully explores the often-tense relationships between mothers and daughters. The novel does not perfectly solve all the problems presented within the pages, but brings hope to the characters as they work to resolve and learn from their relationships.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Chinese history (circa 1920s to 1940s) affected the lives of the Chinese mothers, and how they raised their American-born daughters. How did the experiences your parents had influenced the way they raised you?

  • Reconciling two different cultures can be challenging for the children of immigrants. Do you have any personal experience with this issue?  How do you think a person can find harmony between the culture of your family heritage and the culture of the place you're living in?

  • Mother-daughter relationships can be fraught with tension and strong bonds. Do any of the conflicts in the book sound familiar to you?

  • The Joy Luck Club is often required reading in high school. Why do you think that is?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love multicultural books and historical fiction

Themes & Topics

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