Amy Tan’s Short Story Two Kinds

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In Amy Tan’s short story Two Kinds, the story describes a conflict between the narrator, a Chinese American girl and her mother a Chinese immigrant. The narrator is caught between two cultures and her mother’s traditional beliefs on how to raise a daughter in the United States, which can cause their relationship to be dysfunctional. In Amy Tan’s short story Two Kinds, the author used the story to tell a story of her own family. Many of the characters in Amy Tan’s short stories are memories that happened in China. Amy Ruth Tan was born to two Chinese immigrants John and Daisy Tan in Oakland, California. Her father, John Tan was an electricidal engineer and her mother was a nurse.

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In the 1940s, her parents got married after they met. John and Daisy had an affair and Daisy’s husband divorced her and she lost custody of her three daughters and was put into prison. Amy’s dad John Tan decided to leave China and study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Daisy was soon released from prison. She contacted John in the United States. Currently, John was living in San Francisco and decided to go to divinity school. Daisy somehow escaped from China on the last boat leaving Shanghai before the Communist takeover.

Amy Tan’s mother was not allowed to take her daughters to the United States with her. After they reunited, they got married and had three children named Peter, Amy, and John. Any Tan was the middle child of John and Daisy. Amy Tan’s older brother and dad died of a brain tumor. Amy had a difficult time dealing with their deaths. At the age of fifteen, she moved to Europe with her mother and youngest brother. Her younger brother was arrested in Switzerland on drug charges at the age of sixteen.

John and Daisy Tan wanted the best for their children. Her parents wanted her to bring home perfect grades even in kindergarten. According to Orr, ‘Amy felt pressure to excel in all areas of school from a very young age” (29). Amy Tan mother wanted her daughter to be a neurosurgeon and a famous pianist, but Tan felt she wasn’t good enough to meet her mother’s expectations. Pressure from her mother made her feel that no matter how hard she tried to please Daisy she will never live up to her expectations.

In 1974 Amy graduated with a master’s degree in linguistics from San Jose State University. She married a tax attorney Lou DeMattei. Later Tan became an independent writer in 1983. Amy Tan wrote three stories in three years. Like the daughters in her books, Tan used her personal experience to be related to her stories. Amy wrote Two Kinds in 1989 which came from her The Joy Luck Club.

The relationship of a daughter and mother in Two Kinds was unacceptable to others. The character describes a young Chinese American girl and her mother a Chinese immigrant that lives in the United States. Jing-mei is caught in between her mother’s cultural beliefs on how to raise her daughter and her own identity as a Chinese American young girl. Jing-mei mother believes if she raised her daughter in America, she’ll have a better chance of being successful and wealthy than living in China. According to Liz, “Like many immigrants to the United States, Jing-mei mother has created idealized visions of her adopted country as a land of opportunity where all dreams may be realized’. Jing-mei did not agree with her mother vision of America as a place where you can be what you want to be. However, Jing-mei thought of America being a country for hopes and dreams to be a challenge. After losing everything financially and personally in China her mother focus is to have a better future for her daughter. As Jing-mei stated: ‘America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better” (Tan 222).

Her mother’s American hopes and dreams of her daughter being famous was the symbol of the story. Also, her mother wanted her to be perfect at everything she wanted her to do. According to Mathews, ‘The myths of the perfect mother give rise to impossible expectations and set mothers up for failure”(221).

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Amy Tan's short story Two Kinds. (2021, Mar 04). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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