Jing-mei, the narrator, has been half-heartedly trying to comply with her mother's attempts to make her into a prodigy. One day, Jing-mei hears her mother talking to her friend, Lindo, after church. Lindo is boasting about how talented her daughter Waverly is. Waverly has just been named "Chinatown's Littlest Chinese Chess Champion," and Lindo is going on and on about how difficult it is to have such a famous daughter and that Jing-mei's mother should be glad her daughter isn't so talented. That is too much taunting for Jing-mei's mother, and it causes her to claim Jing-mei is very musically talented. Jing-mei resolves to "put a stop to her foolish pride."
Jing-mei's mother signs her up for piano lessons, but the teacher is deaf. Jing-mei takes advantage of that to be sloppy in her piano playing. No one is the wiser until Jing-mei performs at a talent show and botches her piece. Jing-mei is ready to place all the blame on her mother for her failure, but her mother doesn't say anything after the recital. The next day, Jing-mei's mother expects her to continue practicing, but Jing-mei refuses. She accuses her mother of wanting her to be someone she's not, and she says hurtful things to her mother, including wishing she had never been born or that she had died like her mother's twin baby girls. From that point on, Jing-mei continued "asserting my own will, my right to fall short of expectations." She decides she will "only be me," not what someone else wants her to be. Jing-mei's refusal to turn herself into someone she wasn't is how she put a stop to her mother's foolish pride.