Born in the US to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At age 15, she lost her older brother and father, both to brain tumours within six months of each other. Believing they were cursed, her mother moved the family to Switzerland for several years.
Graduating with B.A. in English and Linguistics, followed by her M.A. in Linguistics, Amy worked as a language development specialist serving developmentally disabled children. She later worked as a freelance business writer, eventually exploring her talents as a novelist.
Her works mostly explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese American experience. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, a collection of sixteen related stories about the experiences of four Chinese American mother-daughter pairs, stayed on the New York Times’s best-seller list for nine months. In 1993, Tan produced and coauthored the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film version.
In 1998, Amy contracted Lyme disease, which led her to co-found LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment. She lives in San Francisco and New York with her husband.