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Amy Tan’s Essay “Fish Cheeks”

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Fish Cheeks Acceptance in a new environment is tough whether you are from distant lands or around the corner fitting in is always desired. This is something many kids can relate to at one point or another. Amy Tan’s essay “Fish Cheeks” exposes the reader to the vulnerability she felt as a young Chinese teenager growing up in America. Fish Cheeks is a short story about a young Chinese girl in America with a crush on Robert, The son of the pastor of her church.

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Tan’s background inhibits the acceptance of herself through the eyes of her crush. In Tan’s mind, having a slim “American nose” (pg 116) and appearance are what matter most to Robert rather than her ordinary appearance. When Tan’s parents invite the boy and his family over for Christmas Eve dinner the emotional rollercoaster when she stated “I cried”(pg 116) and acknowledging the event as being a “shabby Chinese Christmas” (pg 116). Tan’s actions and emotions throughout the dinner are blurred by her determination to impress Robert.

Tan makes it very clear of her newfound disgust of her family traditions and customs stating “my mother had outdone herself in creating a strange menu” (pg 117) because of Roberts presence she continued describing the menu items with disgust contradictory of what she would have said had Robert not been there. As the dinner progressed she threw herself deeper in despair when her mother brought out the whole steamed fish and her father offered her the fish cheek saying “Amy your favorite” (pg 117) and she “wanted to disappear” (pg 117).

The shame of her customs did not end with that as the dinner grew to a close her father belched loudly stating “its polite Chinese custom to show you are satisfied” (pg 117) and Tan was stunned into silence for the rest of the night. After the guests leave, her mother gives her a lesson on embracing the differences of her culture saying “but inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame” (pg 117).

This is the lesson her mother wanted her to embrace and later Tan comes to the realization that you must embrace your individuality. Amy Tan’s perception of her Chinese heritage was her own downfall and as a teenager her mother wanted to convey that to her. Having feet in different cultures is not something she should worry about nor be ashamed of. Time proved to be the remedy for Tan as she states “It wasn’t until many years later long after I had gotten over my crush on Robert that I was able to fully appreciate her

lesson and the true purpose behind our particular menu. For Christmas Eve that year, she had chosen all my favorite foods. ” (pg 117) This proves the disgust for the menu was only a contradiction of her blurred perspective and that she no longer uses her culture as a barrier. Tan’s writing perspective helps the reader identify her teenage self as constantly trying to fit in, change her family’s customs, and struggling with her own identity. Her family traditions, customs, and events are what really made her what she was and fitting in is not worth losing that.

Cite this Amy Tan’s Essay “Fish Cheeks”

Amy Tan’s Essay “Fish Cheeks”. (2016, Sep 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/amy-tans-essay-fish-cheeks/

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