Reading Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife With and Against the Grain of ‘A Sex Which Is Not One.’

Sihem Arfaoui


This paper problematizes the traditionalist conception of gender identity in terms of such a rigid boundary as female castration which is best captured in Luce Irigaray’s notion of “A Sex which Is Not One.” The sexist also misogynistic load embedded in this particular discursive formation is doubly affirmed and debunked through The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991), a novel by the contemporary popular writer Amy Tan. By reading this text with and against a paradigmatic phallogocentrism, I try to demonstrate that Tan is not only subservient to and affirmative of gender binary oppositions, even through performing what is called the phallic masquerade, but also makes of the lack fantasy a more elusive ungraspable term. Among the conceptual fluidities resulting from the appropriation and reconstruction of such a Freudian theme is the project of tracing back the protagonist's disregard of femininity as well as phallic positionings to mythical roots and symbolical structures. Through a gender analysis of Tan’s resistant inversion of the Kitchen God’s Wife tale, I shall point out a feminist search for a more equitable system of signification and stress the incongruities and vulnerabilities of adopting phallocentric frameworks.


The Kitchen God’s Wife, Luce Irigaray, gender dichotomies, reading with and against the grain.

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