Here at last is our interview with Amy Tan. Thanks to Chad at National Bookstore for the audio file, and to Deo for the transcription. It’s a long transcript that we had to cut for publication. An outtake:
Jessica Zafra: One of the consequences of being a bestselling author is that you become a public figure and you’re held up as a role model. How do you feel about this, given that whether you like it or not, people are going to see your story as the template for whatever they want to achieve?
Amy Tan: Yeah, well, that’s like the pressure my mother put on me, you know, that I’m gonna be a brain surgeon and I’m gonna be a concert pianist, now you’re gonna be a role model. And I’m afraid of that because I don’t know what people expect of a role model. I would feel that I’m going to do things that people think are not good role models. Being in a band and wearing a costume as a dominatrix, is that a good role model?
So what I advocate more is the notion of individuality and finding your similarities, things that touch you and you know as truth in yourself from many different people and not one single person. If you try to get it from one single person, that person is going to fail you for sure. And I know that now because I have these fans on Twitter and Facebook and they’re just wonderful fans, they love everything I do until there’s this one thing I do that I tweet about or I post about and they’re shocked.
JZ: Or you can say something like, “I like this movie,” and if they all hate it, they feel betrayed.
AT: No, here’s how small it is. I once posted a photo of the hotel soaps I got from my book tour and so it was soap, it was shampoo, and I know it’s funny—you use the bar soap one night, you’re gonna take it home. That’s wasteful, you know, to leave it there. But somebody said, “Ach! Are you so poor you have to take home hotel soap?”
They actually said, “Why do you this? Why do you do this?” It’s like my mother used to say, “Why did you do that? Why do you do this?” So that person no longer sees me as her role model. You never know what it’s going to be so I caution, “Never choose one person as your role model.” I would disappoint you, I guarantee you, if you choose me, I will disappoint you in many little different ways.
Read our column at InterAksyon.com.