From "No Name Woman" to Gu Liu Xin: Ghosts and Writing in The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date



In the epilogue to The Bonesetter's Daughter, Amy Tan offers a scene that combines the adult writer, Ruth Young, at her desk developing a story with the writer's childhood memory of writing messages from a ghost on a tea-tray lined with sand. By fusing the two in one scene, Tan provides an apt metaphor for the work she performs throughout her fiction, that of investigating and reclaiming aspects of the past in order to define the self, align it with female ancestors, and orient it toward the future. The image of the daughter at the tea-tray writing out messages from the dead symbolizes the "possession" of the daughter by her ghostly female ancestor. This possession is not a passive state but an active one, for the daughter exercises her agency as a writer by using her imagination and responding through her written words to her mother LuLing about Precious Auntie, or Bao Bomu.


Critical Insights: Amy Tan is part of the Critical Insights book series.

This document is currently not available here.