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Amy Tan MasterClass Review: Fiction, Memory, and Imagination

In our honest review of Amy Tan’s MasterClass, we bring you more about the content, highlights, and potential drawbacks of the course.

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Amy Tan teaches Fiction, Memory, and Imagination: Our Verdict (2024)


4.4 / 5

In her MasterClass with an enticing title – Fiction, Memory, and Imagination – Amy Tan shares her writing philosophy. The celebrated author talks about her bestselling book, The Joy Luck Club, and provides exercises that can help young writers improve their skills and find their writing voice.


  • Interesting teacher
  • Unique content
  • Detailed lessons
  • Well-produced videos


  • Too long
  • Lack of versatility

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The moment I saw the title of Amy Tan’s MasterClass, I was intrigued.

As a writer, I’m always interested to learn more about fiction and the way you can use your memories to craft a compelling story.

I haven’t read any of Amy Tan’s novels, though, so I was a bit hesitant. But in most cases, if I would take a class from an instructor I’m not familiar with, I would be pleasantly surprised.

So, was this the case with Amy Tan’s class as well, or do you need to be familiar with her work in order to enjoy it?

I’ll answer this question in my review and tackle other relevant factors that might help you decide whether this writing course is for you.

Table of Contents

What is the Amy Tan MasterClass?

Fiction, Memory, and Imagination” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a reputable online learning platform known for its exceptional team of instructors.

The class is taught by Amy Tan, an American author of the bestselling novel The Joy Luck Club.

As a talented and experienced writer, Amy Tan has a lot to say about fiction, creativity, ideas, and writer’s block. Although her course is primarily focused on how to use your memories and experiences to write a piece of fiction, she also shares personal stories that shaped her as an artist.

The course contains 14 video lessons with a duration of 3 hours and 12 minutes.

The course instructor, Amy Tan
The course instructor, Amy Tan

Who is Amy Tan?

Amy Tan is an American writer of Chinese heritage best known for her novels and short story collections.

Her most famous novel, The Joy Luck Club, spent over 70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The novel was inspired by her complicated relationship with her mother, Daisy, and was later adapted into a film.

Tan is also the author of several other novels, including The Kitchen God’s WifeThe Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Her latest book is actually a memoir entitled Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.

Who is Amy Tan’s MasterClass for?

In her MasterClass, Amy talks at length about her childhood memories, personal stories, and her relationship with her mother. That said, I’m sure every admirer of Tan’s work would find this part very interesting.

She also breaks down her writing process and teaches how to begin a story, develop a character, choose the right words, and revise your story. She provides specific tips that could help any aspiring writer to get things started.

She approaches her writing process very broadly, mentioning ideas, finding your own voice, and getting out of your comfort zone. Therefore, any creative would find something for themselves in Amy’s course.

To sum things up, I think Amy’s class is best for:

  • Beginner writers
  • Authors who want to gain a different perspective
  • Admirers of Amy’s work
  • Creatives and artists

What does Amy Tan’s MasterClass cover?

Amy Tan’s course covers a lot of ground, but the lessons are interesting and fluid. However, I did break the course into pieces and put some time in between following the different parts, as I would otherwise start to feel a bit overwhelmed.

Amy approaches all topics in a very detailed, personal, and thoughtful way, which is great for people who want to delve deeper into her process and works of art. Some of these lessons could be a bit more concise, nevertheless.

But in terms of content, I think any beginner writer could benefit a lot from this course.

Here is a quick overview of all the lessons:

  • Lesson 1 is an introduction to the course. Amy shares what writing means to her and briefly describes the course.
  • Lesson 2 explores the process of finding a unique writing voice.
  • Lesson 3 is focused on memory, truth, and imagination.
  • Lesson 4 includes Amy’s tips on how to conduct successful research and observe the world around you to find inspiration.
  • Lesson 5 covers key elements of a compelling beginning of a story.
  • Lesson 6 is based on the process of choosing a narrative point of view.
  • Lesson 7 is focused on character development.
  • Lesson 8 includes Amy’s tips on how to choose the right words.
  • Lessons 9-10 include the revision process and tools that can help you become more creative.
  • Lesson 11 deals with writer’s block.
  • Lesson 12 takes you behind the scenes of the Joy Luck Club movie.
  • Lesson 13 includes Amy’s examples of rejection letters.
  • Lesson 14 is the final lesson, where Amy shares her last thoughts. Conveniently, she also teaches how to create an impactful story ending.

My favorite parts of Amy Tan’s MasterClass

I generally enjoyed Amy’s MasterClass, and here are some of the parts I particularly liked.

Choosing the right words

Amy Tan discussing her process of choosing words during a writing workshop or interview
Amy discussing her process of choosing words

In this interesting lesson, Amy talks about the foundation of every novel – words.

Careful construction of words is sometimes hard to come by, but with enough practice, you’ll be able to write in a clear, truthful, and impactful way.

Amy also brings up some words you should avoid (like overused metaphors) and discusses the role of internal language in a story.

Writer’s block

Experiencing writer's block reflects your investment and passion in the creative process
Having writer’s block means that you care enough

I think every writer wants to know what the magic remedy for writer’s block is.

And to be honest, this is one of the most concrete and well-explained lessons about writer’s block I’ve ever encountered.

Of course, what works for Amy might not work for other writers (or me), but it was still interesting to gain a fresh perspective on one of the most common challenges in the writers’ community.

How to end your story

Understanding the right moment to conclude a story is crucial
It’s important to know when to end a story

Knowing exactly when to end a story might seem easy, but it’s not.

In any case, it’s important to provide clarity, wrap up your thoughts in an impactful way, and make your readers look forward to the sequel.

This is the last lesson of the course, so Amy also shares her parting words and final advice to young writers.

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Amy Tan’s MasterClass

If you already have a MasterClass subscription, there’s no reason for you not to give Amy’s class a chance. And if you’re new to MasterClass, there are plenty of other great writing classes to take after this one.

In any case, Amy’s writing lessons are interesting and unique, and they are great for writers and non-writers alike.

The whole course is very immersive and calming, at times even melancholic, and it sort of reflects Amy’s energy and stories.

But if you’re still not sure if Amy’s MasterClass is worth taking, here are some of the highlights that might help you decide.

Interesting teacher

Without a doubt, Amy Tan is a great instructor. She is eloquent, thoughtful, and calm, and she is very open and honest about her creative process.

In the course, she also shared personal stories and childhood memories. She talked about her mother, their complicated relationship, and some disturbing events from her past. Hearing about how her own mother held a knife against her throat wasn’t easy, but it proved how even a tragic memory can serve a writer’s creative process.

Unique content

This is primarily an online writing course, but it’s actually so much more than that.

Amy’s approach to creativity and imagination is truly unique. Her personal stories and memories sometimes brought a melancholic note to the course’s atmosphere, but her passion and resilience are rather inspiring.

When sharing writing advice, she brought up some very specific topics, such as choosing the right words, writing an ending, and so on.

Detailed lessons

Amy’s lessons are very long and detailed. She takes her time to address a certain topic, but she also provides a very clear conclusion. She doesn’t let anything hang up in the air.

Whether you want to learn how to write a good beginning or which words to avoid, Amy has concrete advice and techniques. She also gave many examples from her novels, which helped me fully understand what she was talking about.

She talked about her own experiences and work a lot, which is a plus for her fans.

Well-produced videos

I’m always amazed by the production quality of MasterClass videos.

Although I already gotten used to the platform’s top-notch videos, Amy’s class really impressed me with its aesthetics. The setting is beautiful, the music is fitting, and transitions between chapters are smooth.

Drawbacks of Amy Tan’s MasterClass

Although I enjoyed the class, there are some things that could be done a little differently.

Too long

What some learners might not like about this class is its length.

With a duration of 3 hours and 12 minutes, it’s actually not that long, but I guess some lessons could be a little more concise.

Breaking the course into more bite-sized lessons would also help.

Lack of versatility

Another thing that would bring more dynamics to the course is a change of scenery.

Amy’s course is based on one-on-one lessons, and they are all recorded at the same place. Even the behind-the-scenes lessons are not literally behind the scenes.

In my opinion, more versatility would keep me focused and engaged for a longer period of time.

Review conclusion: Is Amy Tan’s MasterClass worth it?

All things considered, I think Amy’s course is worth taking.

And you don’t need to be familiar with Amy’s work in order to benefit from her lessons.

I do believe there are some things that could be improved, though, mostly structure-wise, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to your preferences. I prefer a little variety and challenges, so I would prefer an occasional change of pace and scenery.

Amy’s one-to-one lessons provide depth and honesty, though, and they offer a captivating look at her life and work.

If you’re a beginner writer or an artist who wants to delve deeper into your imagination and memories, Amy’s course surely has plenty to offer.