In the short story “Two Kinds,” Amy Tan explores the clash of cultures between a first-generation Chinese-American daughter, Jing-mei, and her mother, Suyan, a Chinese immigrant. Suyan believes that Jing-mei has the potential to become a prodigy if she puts in enough effort. Initially, Jing-mei is enthusiastic about trying, but she always falls short of her mother’s expectations. Eventually, Jing-mei realizes that she can be her own kind of prodigy by staying true to herself. Throughout the story, conflict arises between the two women as their cultures and aspirations collide. “Two Kinds” not only delves into the conflict between two types of women, but also between two types of daughters. This personal account by Tan chronicles Jing-mei’s childhood memories as a first generation American citizen and her struggle to balance her Chinese heritage with American standards of success. It also highlights her mother’s desire for greatness for her daughter and Jing-mei’s fight for independence.
Set in 1950’s San Francisco, Two Kinds by Amy Tan explores the hopes of the Woo family in a post-war America filled with economic prosperity. The immigration network between China and the US created a microcosm of Chinese culture in Chinatown. Through the utilization of setting, Tan highlights the contrasting dynamics between Eastern and Western cultures, as well as the complex relationship between mothers and daughters, ultimately conveying the theme of the mothers’ American dream. The novel delves into the experience of growing up in America.