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As a Chinese-American girl whose mother is determined to fulfill her own hopes and dreams by making her daughter a prodigy, Jing-mei struggles to find her own identity. When she rebells against her mother's attempts to make her into something she is not, her mother shouts at her, "Only two kinds of daughters...those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!"
Jing-mei's mother has decided that her daughter will be an amazing pianist, even though Jing-mei has neither talent nor interest in playing the instrument. She makes the young girl take lessons and practice faithfully, but when Jing-mei's lack of a natural gift in the area is made painfully evident at a performance, Jing-mei refuses to continue playing. Her rebellion has greater significance than a simple refusal to pursue a hobby chosen by her mother, however. Jing-mei's dilemma is central to the theme of the story. Jing-mei must choose whether to obey her mother and continue with the piano, or to listen to her own heart. The choice she makes, as set forth by her mother, will be either good or bad, and reflect Chinese filial expectations vs. American freedom. In making her choice, Jing-mei will choose to be true to her Chinese roots or her American upbringing - she will decide which of "two kinds" of daughters she will be.
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