Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Waverly Place Jong is a chess prodigy living in San Francisco’s Chinatown with her Chinese immigrant parents. She is named after “Waverly Place,” her family’s address and, therefore, their claim to the United States. Waverly is diminutively nicknamed as “Meimei” (Chinese for “little sister”), whereas her two brothers have resonant, victorious names—Winston and Vincent.
Waverly and her mother, Lindo Jong, have an ongoing psychological battle, each surreptitiously trying to gain the upper hand. Although Waverly was born in the United States, her mother has instilled in her many Chinese rules of conduct. One important rule is that one must remain silent to win. The story’s opening focuses on silence and on how controlling one’s emotions endows one with a secret strength like the wind.
Once when shopping with her mother, the six-year-old Waverly longs for some salted plums. Because she fusses for them, her mother refuses to buy them. The next time, Waverly keeps her wants silent, and her mother rewards her with plums.
Later, Waverly sets a psychological ambush for her mother. As her hair is being combed painfully by Lindo, Waverly slyly asks her what Chinese torture is. Lindo knows that Waverly is challenging her pride in Chinese culture. Initially, Lindo deflects her daughter’s question about the possibility of Chinese inhumanity, pointing out that Chinese people are good at business, medicine, and painting. Then Lindo’s chauvinism overcomes her, and she adds, “We do torture. Best torture.”
At a church Christmas party, the Jong children receive gifts, among which is a used chess set. At church, Lindo thanks the ladies, but at home, she sniffs proudly that they do not want it. Thus she socializes her children to exercise silence and...
(The entire section is 738 words.)
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