In "Two Kinds," Jing-Mei Woo and her mother, Suyuan, clash over Suyuan's expectations about her daughter's abilities. Suyuan wants her daughter to become a prodigy. Because of children like Shirley Temple and Waverly Jong (a family friend's daughter, who is a chess prodigy), Suyuan thinks being a child prodigy would be fairly easy for Jing-Mei to do if she practices enough. Jing-Mei initially likes the idea of being a prodigy, but after she does not improve as quickly as she would like, she gives up on the idea of being a prodigy and decides not to try at piano anymore. Her mother continues to make her go to piano lessons and practice for two hours every day, though. Jing-Mei quickly realizes that her teacher, Mr. Chong, is deaf. She uses this information to her advantage by making it look like she is playing in time, but does not try to hit the correct notes.
When Jing-Mei plays piano poorly at the talent show in front of her family and her mother's friends and children, Suyuan does not say anything, but it is very clear that she is upset Jing-Mei did not play better. Two days later, Suyuan asks Jing-Mei why she is not practicing piano at the time she is supposed to be. Jing-Mei tells her mother that she is never playing piano again, which makes Suyuan upset. Ultimately, Suyuan tells her daughter she needs to be obedient. This prompts Jing-Mei to say she wishes Suyuan wasn't her mother or that she was dead "like them." This reference to Suyuan's twin babies that she had to abandon in China is the height of their clash, and Suyuan leaves immediately afterward.