Where the Past Begins: Memory and Imagination

Where the Past Begins: Memory and Imagination

by Amy Tan


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From New York Times bestselling author Amy Tan, a memoir about finding meaning in life through acts of creativity and imagination

In Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan reveals the ways that our memories and personal experiences can inform our creative work. Drawing on her vivid impressions of her upbringing, Tan investigates the truths and inspirations behind her writing while illuminating how we all explore, confront, and process complex memories, especially half-forgotten ones from childhood.

With candor, empathy, and humor, Tan sheds light on her own writing process, sharing her hard-won insights on the nature of creativity and inspiration while exploring the universal urge to examine truth through the workings of imagination—and what that imaginative world tells us about our own lives. Where the Past Begins is both a unique look into the mind of an extraordinary storyteller and an indispensable guide for writers, artists, and other creative thinkers.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062319319
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 277,523
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children's books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat, which was adapted into a PBS television series. Tan was also a coproducer and coscreenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and her work has been translated into thirty-five languages. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.


San Francisco, California and New York, New York

Date of Birth:

February 19, 1952

Place of Birth:

Oakland, California


B.A., San Jose State University, 1973; M.A., 1974

Table of Contents

Introduction Where the Past Begins 1

Prologue The Breaker of Combs 13

I Imagination

Chapter 1 A Leaky Imagination 17

Chapter 2 Music as Muse 41

Quirk Souvenir from a Dream 64

Chapter 3 Hidden Genius 67

Interlude Reorientation: Homer, Alaska 97

II Memory In Emotion

Chapter 4 Genuine Emotions 101

Chapter 5 The Feeling of What It Felt Like When It Happened 117

Quirk A Mere Mortal at Age Twenty-Five 139

Quirk A Mere Mortal at Age Twenty-Six 140

Quirk How to Change Fate: Step 1 141

III Retrieving The Post

Interlude The Unfurling of Leaves 145

Interlude The Auntie of the Woman Who Lost Her Mind 147

Chapter 6 Unstoppable 155

Quirk Time and Distance: Age Twenty-Four 176

Quirk Time and Distance: Age Fifty 176

Quirk Time and Distance: Age Sixty 177

IV Unknown Endings

Chapter 7 The Darkest Moment of My Life 181

Quirk Nipping Dog 187

Chapter 8 The Father I Did Not Know 189

Quirk Reliable Witness 220

V Reading And Writing

Interlude I Am the Author of This Novel 223

Chapter 9 How I Learned to Read 227

Quirk Splayed Poem: The Road 251

Quirk Eidolons 252

Chapter 10 Letters to the Editor 253

Chapter 11 Letters in English 285

Quirk Why Write? 312

VI Language

Chapter 12 Language: A Love Story 315

Quirk Intestinal Fortitude 327

Chapter 13 Principles of Linguistics 329

Epilogue Companions in the House 351

Acknowledgments 358

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