In Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds,” the daughter, Jing-Mei “June” Woo, changes from a child into a young woman. She reaches adulthood and a deeper understanding of her mother.
As a child, June acquiesces to her mother’s belief that in America you can be anything, including a child prodigy. The two watch television shows and read magazines that show how children become famous for their talents. Even when her mother tries to “Americanize” her looks with haircuts and treatments, the daughter is compliant.
As she grows older, June begins to understand she is not a prodigy. But not only is she not a prodigy, she does not work hard or apply herself as her mother wants her to. Although her mother works at menial jobs to provide for June, the two have conflicting ideas about the daughter’s life. After June fails to live up to her mother’s expectations in her piano recital, the two quarrel. Neither one minces words. The mother tells her daughter there are only two kinds of daughters: those who follow their own minds and those who are obedient. June tells he mother she wishes she was dead like her twin sisters, who died in China. The pair come to an impasse as June defies her mother and strives to establish her own identity, while the mother forgoes her hopes and dreams for her child. June changes from a complicit child to a non-conformist teen and young adult. She strives to live life on her own terms, unencumbered by her mother’s past.
For her thirtieth birthday, June’s mother offers to give her the piano. At first, June sees this as a prize instead of a peace offering. After the mother’s death, June realizes the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship.