Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan is a story about a Chinese-American girl, Amy, who had a crush on the Minister’s son, Robert, who is a Caucasian-American. On Christmas Eve, the minister’s family was invited by Amy’s parent for dinner. Amy’s family prepared a Christmas Dinner – Chinese Style! This worried Amy so much. She was afraid and somewhat ashamed of what Robert would think about her shabby Chinese Christmas.
Even though, all her favorite foods were served, she did not notice and she appeared to be particularly conservative and embarrassed most of the time by every action her family. After all the guests had gone, Tan’s Mother handed her miniskirt as a gift and told her that even though she wants to be the same as American girls on the outside, she must always remain Chinese on the inside and that she must be proud of being different.
Amy Tan tells us of a story about a Chinese teenager, struggling to fit in America in an informal, playful and lightly written essay. The informal tone of the essay makes it easy for a reader to relate to the characters of the story. It also helps Amy in telling the story in a manner that is easily understood by the reader. The story of Amy is every teenage girl’s story of trying to fit in, longing to be accepted. Amy Tan, uses simple English which is easy to understand and which makes the conveyance of the message effortless and uncomplicated for both the reader and the author. She used short sentences in telling interesting personal anecdotes from her life.She wrote a creative story to get across a message about not forgetting your roots, being proud of your roots and beginnings.
The essay’s tone was light and playful which helped the author achieve her purpose of conveying this message to the reader. She retold her account of a personal history. She narrated skillfully the events that as a reader I felt the story coming to life, and I saw the pictures that Amy Tan was trying to paint through the story. She used appropriate examples that made it easier for a reader to better understand the point she is sending. To make the reader understand the context from which the story is being told she used as an example when Amy’s father belched loudly after dinner as a sign of his appreciation for the wonderful dinner and Amy felt embarrassed by it the author was successful in exemplifying the exact attitude of a person who is ashamed of his roots and who would rather turn his back on customs and traditions in order to be accepted. The following excerpt from the text shows how Amy Tan was successful in comparing and contrasting the two cultures ‘My relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table, dipping them into the dozen or so plates of food. Robert and his family waited patiently for platters to be passed to them. My relatives murmured with pleasure when my mother brought out the whole steamed fish. Robert grimaced.
Amy wrote from the perspective of the main character, thus the story used first person perspective which made the storytelling all the more effective. It made the reader feel connected with the character. Especially when the thoughts of Amy are being described, as a reader, one could hear Amy thinking aloud.
The way the story was written, together with its title gave made it interesting and attention catching. The narrative tone which was dominant in the first sentence catches the attention of the reader (‘I fell in love with the minister’s son the winter I turned fourteen’.)
The reader will surely be entertained by this short but interesting story. This is brief but concise and full of lessons, which we experience in our everyday lives. These characteristic makes the story all the more appealing to the readers.
I share the value that Amy Tan gives to our individual and cultural roots. Her emphasis on its importance is remarkable as it humbles a person and it strengthens our bonds with our roots. This, to mind, would hold true for most people, regardless of cultural background and beliefs.
I believe the clarity of the author’s message would get across all cultural backgrounds even to those who are not experiencing personal conflicts with an old culture and new one. She even goes as far as make the reader realize that we are all different in one way or another, and it is not good and it will not do us any good to feel ashamed of who we are, what we used to be and where we came from. We feel the same need to belong as the character of Amy, in school, in the playground when we were young, at home, at work, everywhere; we always want to belong and to be accepted.
But trying your best to be accepted should not entail being ashamed of our true selves. It will be difficult for us to be accepted when we ourselves cannot accept the true us. As Amy’s mother put it “But inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame.”