Explain why Tan calls herself a rebel in "Mother Tongue" and how this identity led to her becoming a writer. 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In describing herself as “rebellious by nature,” Amy Tan also calls herself “fortunate.” She is talking about the lack of coherence between her scores in the language area of the SAT and similar standardized tests, which routinely were much lower than those in mathematics, and her passion for language. Thinking...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In describing herself as “rebellious by nature,” Amy Tan also calls herself “fortunate.” She is talking about the lack of coherence between her scores in the language area of the SAT and similar standardized tests, which routinely were much lower than those in mathematics, and her passion for language. Thinking about the way her mother speaks English led her to contemplate the reasons that few Asian Americans study creative writing in college, while many major in engineering. She suspects this phenomenon may correlate to the languages spoken in their homes, with parents whose English is often denigrated as “broken” or “limited” by outsiders. Closely related to test scores is the attitudes of teachers who base their advice more on scores than on personal knowledge of the student

Despite the discrepancies in her test scores, Tan refused to be deterred from pursuing her desire to write. She embraced the challenge of disproving the assumptions that teachers and other adults made about her abilities. As a first-year college student, she declared an English major, turning away from the pre-med course she had expected to pursue. A deciding factor was a supervisor telling her that she should work in account management because "writing was [her]...worst skill." This was the catalyst to begin "writing nonfiction as a freelancer the [same] week." Writing fiction came later. She took time to find her own voice, abandoning the notion of proving her “mastery over the English language.” It was thinking about her mother, and how she might speak the ideas or read the finished text, that shaped her prose: "I wanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team