Summary Of Fish Cheeks By Amy Tan

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“Help and not fight. Assimilation and not destruction. Harmony and Peace and not dissension” were said by Swami Vivekananda addressing the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. Similarly, the essays “Fish Cheeks” and “We’re Not…” from Amy Tan and Andrea Roman respectively point out that assimilation should not mean either or but instead a way to harmoniously co-exist by learning new and keeping the old traditions. This is discussed through the dilemma that second generation immigrants go through as their parents try to hold on to cultural values that contrast the social norm in the States. However, it is possible for immigrants to assimilate in the United States, and it’s still able to maintain the heritage from the country they came from.
Amy Tan’s essay “Fish Cheeks” is a story about a teenage girl who is mortified at her own culture. However, she wants to fit with American society. Tan falls in love with a white American boy Robert, who was a minister’s son. Her parents decided to invite Robert and his family over for Christmas dinner. Tan was trying to fit in American culture because she did not want to look different. However, she wonders, “What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas… our noisy Chinese relatives?” (Tan 74). By repeating the word “Chinese” with negative words in front of it, like “shabby,” and “noisy,” Tan reveals her low level of pride in her heritage. She thinks her family is louder than they should be, that her customs are less valuable than those of the guests. Christmas Eve dinner for Tan was outlandish. In fact, Tan feels frustrated because of her Chinese culture: licked chopstick and digging into plates, eating cheeks and eye of fish, and belching loudly after finishing the dinner, she reacts by wanting “to disappear” (Tan 75). After the dinner, Tan’s mother said to her, “You want to be the same as American girls on the outside.” Also, she handed her an early gift, a miniskirt in beige tweed and said to her, “But inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame” (Tan 75). Later, Tan realized that being an outsider is not a source of shame, but of pride. Also, Tan explains that she came to accept her

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