Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
A young Chinese American woman, Jing-Mei “June” Woo, recalls, after her mother’s death, her mother’s sadness at having left her twin baby girls in China in 1949. June has used her mother’s regret as a weapon in a battle of wills focusing on what her mother wants her to be and what she wants. June wins, leaving her mother, Suyuan, stunned when she says she wishes she were dead like the twins. Although this scene characterizes the common struggle for power between mother and daughter, the story also illustrates the cultural division between an Asian immigrant and her Asian American daughter. These cultural clashes resonate throughout the short story, as does the discordant sound of June’s piano playing.
Wanting her daughter to be an American prodigy, Suyuan Woo epitomizes the mother living through her child. With the American ideal that you can be anything you want, she prepares and coaches June into becoming a Chinese Shirley Temple. June believes in her mother’s dreams for her and admits she was filled with a sense that she would soon become perfect.
She and her mother, who cleans houses for extra money, begin searching through the latest American magazines, such as Good Housekeeping and Reader’s Digest, for stories of child prodigies. Every evening her mother tests her relentlessly for intellectual prowess, such as knowing all the world capitals and multiplying large numbers in her head. June grows resentful as she sees the disappointment on her mother’s face as she fails to measure up to her expectations.
(The entire section is 653 words.)
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