Belong & Not Belonging

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Belonging or not belonging is a perception, or something that we feel. We are influenced by many factors to feel that we belong or don’t fit in, including our knowledge and understanding of the place where we are in the present and how that it is influenced by our prior experiences of other places. Our perception of belonging can also be affected by how much others know and understand of the places we have come from in relation to where we are now. These ideas are explored extensively in Amy Tan’s novel, The Joy Luck Club, where feelings of belonging and connection to others are significantly affected by people’s understanding of place. The Museum Victoria: Immigration Museum website also explores how people perceive belonging and not belonging through connections to place. In particular, the site explores the experiences of people from other countries who are developing strong personal and community bonds in Australia through maintaining connections with their original countries and finding commonalities in Australian communities.

The Joy Luck Club begins with place – Jing-mei recounts her parents’ escape from China in 1949 and their arrival in the US. The connection between belonging and place is established here in some contradictory ways. They are connected to China through birth, heritage and experience, but because of “unspeakable tragedies” they no longer belong there. On the other hand, with no knowledge of or established connection with their new country, they set out, “with hopes they couldn’t begin to express”, to belong in America. They perceive that the land of their birth is no longer where they belong and they perceive that their new chosen country offers the potential for connection and belonging.

This potential to connect and belong is referred to throughout the novel in the conversations which guide the reader into different perceptions. Jing-mei’s mother, Suyuan, believes “you could be anything you wanted to be in America”, suggesting...
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