In Amy Tan's story "Two Kinds," Jing-mei Woo grows up in San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood, an area with a vibrant, close-knit Chinese-American community. Jing-mei's mother is an immigrant to America from China (arriving in 1949), and this has given her all kinds of ideas about things her daughter could grow up to be. For Jing-mei's mother, the possibilities are endless. Her daughter could be the next Shirley Temple or a genius in memorization. She could be someone the whole community would be proud of.
Finally, Jing-mei's mother decides that her daughter should play the piano. Thankfully, there is a man in their apartment building who used to teach piano, and Jing-mei can have lessons with him. The close-knit Chinese community has come through again; there is always someone around to help out, and Mr. Chong will accept cleaning services from Jing-mei's mother in exchange for the piano lessons. The setting drives the plot by providing access to an opportunity.
The story's setting proves yet another opportunity in the form of a talent show at the community's church hall. Jing-mei is all set to make her piano debut, but things certainly don't go as planned. Since Mr. Chong is mostly deaf, he hasn't been able to teach Jing-mei very much, and Jing-mei performs horribly. The audience tries very hard to be polite, even clapping, for Jing-mei is one of their own. But they all know that this girl is no pianist.
In one way, Jing-mei's close-knit community actually makes it more difficult for her to discover and pursue her own talents. She is often compared to the other young people around her. Auntie Lindo's daughter, Waverly, for example, is a chess champion. Jing-mei's mother is quick to compare her own daughter's talent, putting quite a bit of pressure on Jing-mei and making her wish she were someplace else and someone else.