Fish Cheeks Identity

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“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou. In Fish Cheeks, the reader is introduced to Amy Tan, a young girl born in 1952, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who had fled civil war.( Essentially living in two different worlds, she ate, talked, and behaved one way at her American school, and another way entirely in her traditional Chinese home. As is the case with many immigrant children, this puts Amy Tan in a burdensome, awkward situation. When the events of Fish Cheeks take place, Amy feels ashamed of her Chinese culture because she views it as something that makes her different from her peers. She longed to fit in and be accepted, so naturally…show more content…
But as she matured, and largely due to the support and encouragement of her mother, the shame Amy felt for her culture eventually developed into pride. Amy learned how an experience can shape one’s identity for the better, and portrayed this through the structure, quality, and applicability of her piece, Fish Cheeks. At the very beginning of Fish Cheeks, Amy lets the reader know how old she was by saying, “I fell in love with the minister’s son the winter I turned fourteen.” (Tan) This not only gives context to her emotions in the rest of the piece but also sets the tone of a “regular” teenager. Calling a crush “falling in love” is exactly what innumerable teenagers have done. She then carried that theme throughout the entire piece, using expressions and terminology that would be found in a fourteen year olds vocabulary. For example, when she first discovered that her crush was coming over for Christmas dinner, she says…show more content…
As they become older they may struggle with their identity, and how they want the world to perceive them. At the end of the story, Amy’s mother gives her a gift, something that is certainly not traditionally Chinese, but American, a miniskirt. This shows her acceptance of Amy being a part of American culture. Yet in the following touching moment she also expresses to fourteen year old Amy “…inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud to be different. Your only shame is to have shame.”(Tan) Amy also mentions that she felt her mom “knew how much she suffered” during the Christmas dinner.(Tan) Subsequently, Amy realized the significance of the bizarre foods her mother had prepared, that they were all her favorites. While the story abruptly ends with this ironic realization, it can only be supposed that Amy’s mother intentionally prepared the food she knew could embarrass her daughter, with the intent of helping her realize something about her culture. The image of such a caring, supportive mother and the message of taking pride one’s culture is still relevant

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