Mother Tongue by Amy Tan Essay

1070 Words 5 Pages
Identity and Culture
Amy Tan’s ,“Mother Tongue” and Maxine Kingston’s essay, “No Name Woman” represent a balance in cultures when obtaining an identity in American culture. As first generation Chinese-Americans both Tan and Kingston faced many obstacles. Obstacles in language and appearance while balancing two cultures. Overcoming these obstacles that were faced and preserving heritage both women gained an identity as a successful American.
In the work of Amy Tan’s “Mother’s Tongue” she provides a look into how she adapted her language to assimilate into American culture. She made changes to her language because her mother heavily relied on her for translation. She was the voice of her mother, relaying information in standard English to
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My mother was in the room. And it was perhaps the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech using the kind of English I have never used with her.”(417) Overcoming the barrier between languages she spoke aided Tan in building a bridge between cultures. She changed her language to assimilate into American culture while also keeping familial culture. A piece of heritage that uses a language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk. Tan grew up with this language and she still uses it with her mother, husband and in her books. (418) Another method to find identity in a new host society is through appearance. In the essay, “No Name Woman” by Maxine Kingston ideals in appearance were passed from generation to generation. Altering ideals when creating identity is noticed in Kingston’s essay. A long held tradition in many Chinese families is that many generations live under the same roof and this can cause a conflict in ideals. Conflicting ideals between generations is shown as Tan tells how the younger generation hid the identities of their sexual color and their character. Hiding these new identities they hoped to avoid potential conflict with generational ideals. Kingston did not hide her identity, she found herself “walking erect (knees straight, toes pointed forward, not pigeon-toed, which is Chinese-feminine) and speaking in an audible