In Amy Tan’s short story Two Kinds, Jing-mei, the American born daughter of Chinese immigrants, tells how her mother relentlessly drove her to become a child prodigy. The fun part of the story is that her mother pushes in all kinds of directions while searching for a natural talent that she seems certain must be lying dormant in her little girl. Although unsuccessful in finding some hidden talent, her mother settles on piano lessons and hopes that perhaps, with practice, the prodigy can come out. Jing-mei rebels against all of her mother’s fussing, not understanding that the hope that she has for her daughter stems from a realization that her own life will never truly be anything grand. When her mother hires a deaf piano teacher to train her, the scene is set for this naughty little girl to fake all of her practice and lessons and waste her time ideally. She feels she has been fortunate in her mother’s blunder; however, when a talent show comes along her instructor and mother sign her up to showcase her burgeoning piano skills for the entire Chinese-American community. Trapped, she goes along with the show, hoping and praying naively that a miracle will deliver magic into her fingers with the pressure of an audience.
No magic comes and she completely embarrasses her family. The battle between Jing-mei and her mother’s expectations rages on after this recital, coming to a verbal battle in which Jing-mei devastates her mother’s heart by saying—completely out of frustration and embarrassment—that she wishes she was not her daughter. With this blow, the mother closes the lid to the piano, stops the lessons, and admits that her daughter could be a failure. This is a hollow victory of course for the main character. As the short story ends, we see the girl returning, now thirty, and having the piano serviced. Her mother has passed away and she has decided to keep the piano as a memento of her mother’s hopes for her. This short story is taken from Amy Tan’s critically acclaimed novel The Joy Luck Club. As a Chinese-American, Amy Tan represents a strong sub-culture within American society. This short story is perhaps the most complex in the book and by far my favorite.