In the story, “Fish Cheeks,” Amy Tan describes a young girl and the anxiety that she was experiencing when she learns that her crush, Robert, was coming to dinner with his family. Amy’s family was Chinese and their customs were different for Christmas compared to Robert’s American customs. She was afraid of what Robert and his family would think. These feelings are expressed in the second paragraph, “When I found out that my parents had invited the minister’s family over for Christmas Eve dinner, I cried.” At first, Amy is shamed of her family and their customs and traditions.
Amy’s mother had prepared a large meal of Amy’s favorite foods, that was traditional for a Chinese Christmas. However, at the time she thought it was “strange.” She knew that Robert’s family was not accustomed to this kind of meal, and she was also embarrassed by her own family’s manners. By the time both families were finished eating, Amy mentioned that she “was stunned into silence for the rest of the night,” in paragraph 7. Her embarrassment was evident throughout the night.
After the meal and the Robert’s family left, Amy’s mother wanted her to realize that she didn’t need to be ashamed of her Chinese heritage, but also understood that Amy wanted to be like the American girls. Her mother gave her a special gift that night as well, to try to show her understanding. Amy’s mother reiterated to her daughter that she should be proud of her Chinese heritage and that she should be proud to be different.
It was several years later that Amy didn’t realize the importance of what her mother was saying in regards to being Chinese. For a teenager growing up in today’s society, there is so much pressure to fit in and to be accepted. Amy Tan was trying to convey this to her readers. In order to fit in these days, being different and looking different is not always easy. Her family’s customs and traditions are what her what she was and her not fitting in with the rest of society was not worth losing that.