Summary Of Mother Tongue By Amy Tan

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Asian-American author, Amy Tan, reflects in her personal essay, Mother Tongue (1991), her perception of language and ethnic identity through an employment of anecdotes and repetition. The history of Asian-Americans goes back to the nineteenth century when thousands of men left their families and homes in China, as well as other Asian countries, to seek their fortunes in the United States (Huntley 21). The Chinese, forming the largest Asian immigrant group, “became the first Asians to experience institutionalized discrimination when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed by Congress, barring the majority of Chinese from entering the United States” (Huntley 21). International and domestic factors during the Cold War finally prompted the abolition of the quota system and the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act (Lee 3). Amy was born in California in 1952 to parents who had emigrated from China several years earlier (Huntley 1). As a second generation American, Tan’s parents wanted her to have “American circumstances and Chinese character” (Huntley 2); to her traditional Chinese parents’ dismay, she fully embraced the dominant American culture outside her home. Through the dual lenses of her American identity and her ethnic roots, Tan creatively shares her own experiences with language and emigration, while exploring the many facets of biculturalism and the challenges of integrating two distinct cultures.
Similarly to thousands of Asian Americans, Amy spent her childhood
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