From an Ethnic Writer to a Global Writer:
Amy Tan’s Transition in Saving Fish from Drowning
With the publication of her fifth novel, Saving Fish from Drowning (2005), famous Asian American writer Amy Tan moves forward from her familiar themes to a brand-new one—globalization and its impact on modern people. This thesis proposes to explore her transition from an ethnic writer to a “global writer,” whose writing tends to concentrate on issues related to globalization and its impact on the world as well as her own attitude toward globalization. The first part of the thesis—Chapter One points out several possible factors related to her transition, including essential change in both her personal life and socio-historical circumstances. In terms of her personal life, I refer to the death of her mother, which marks the end of her Chinese inspiration, coupled with Tan’s Lyme disease which reminds her to sympathize with the suffering of people all around the world, for the delayed diagnosis has caused Tan enormous pain, either physically or mentally . As for socio-historical circumstance, I focus on how her ethnic identity leads to some critics’ limited interpretations of her writing such as the obsession with “the politically (in-)correct” representation of China in her writing. To prevent these biased reading of her works, Tan turns to her new concerns on globalization which announces her new identity as a global writer. To read Saving Fish as a global novel, I discuss the emergence of global novel with in the era of globalization and its content, adopting Eleanor Ty’s and Paul Jay’s theories of global literature.
The second part—Chapter Two and Three illustrate Tan’s comment on the influences of global media and transnational tourism on the First World as well as the Third World respectively. To show Tan’s attitude toward globalization, I adopt Jean Baudrillard’s concept of simulation, for both of them concentrate on manipulation of the media. Chapter Two discusses not only how the boom of global media and transnational tourism shortens the distance between different regions but how the First World people indulge in the simulation generated by global media, relying on it to construct their perspective on the Third World. Chapter Three focuses Tan’s observation on the impact of global media and transnational tourism on the socioeconomic circumstances of Burma. Besides, Baudrillard’s criticism on ethnology and reality show serves as a comparison to her discussion on local tribe Karen people, disclosing the ambiguity of global media. In conclusion, through redefining herself as a global writer, Amy Tan embraces diverse issues other than China and is no longer “drowned” in limited interpretations.
Keywords: Jean Baudrillard, Amy Tan, globalization, global writer, transnational tourism, global media, Burma, reality show.