Is "Two Kinds" a true story, based on the author's life experiences, or is it fictional?

Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" is fictional, but it does reflect the real conflicts and tensions between the generations in Chinese American homes.

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Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" is part of her novel The Joy Luck Club. As such, it is not a true story. Rather, it is fictional. Yet is it also largely based on the author's life experiences as a Chinese American growing up in a mix of Chinese and American cultures.

The story is told in the first person by Jing-mei Woo as she reflects back on her childhood. Her mother, who was born in China and immigrated to the United States, always wants Jing-mei to be a prodigy of some kind. Jing-mei, however, feels that her mother wants her to be something she is not and that she refuses to accept her daughter as the person she is. The more her mother pushes her, the more she resists.

The situation comes to a head when Jing-mei takes piano lessons. Her teacher is deaf, so she actually never learns much of anything, and she rarely corrects her mistakes. When she plays in her first talent show, however, the old ideas of Jing-mei becoming a prodigy resurface, even in Jing-mei herself. She gets all dressed up and is happy with her appearance, but when she starts to play, she hits one wrong note after another. She is horrible, and she knows it, and her mother knows it.

A couple days later, it is time for another session of piano practice, but Jing-mei refuses, argues, and makes some comments to her mother that she should not have spoken. Her mother never forces her to play the piano again. Years later, though, Jing-mei's mother gives her the piano, and after her mother's death, Jing-mei sits down to play again, realizing that had she not been so stubborn and careless, she might actually have been quite good.

This fictional story reflects the real tensions between generations in the Chinese American community. Older people who had been born in China saw America as a land of dreams in which their children could become wealthy and successful. Jing-mei's mother certainly has that dream for her daughter. She believes that America holds vast opportunities that Jing-mei only has to desire to be able to receive.

Jing-mei, however, is culturally already more American than Chinese, and she does not share her mother's enthusiasm. She is more concerned with discovering the person she is than becoming the person her mother wants her to be. She is obedient, but only to a point, while her mother expects full obedience. It is not until Jing-mei grows up that she realizes the goals of mother and daughter did not have to clash as much as they did. They could have blended, had each side given just a bit. Most likely, this kind of conflict played out in many Chinese American homes in reality, perhaps in Amy Tan's own home as well.

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