In "Two Kinds," what does the narrator's mother want her to become?

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In "Two Kinds ," the narrator's mother wants her to be a prodigy—meaning a young person who has an extraordinary talent that makes that child famous. At first, the mother thinks the narrator can become a kind of Shirley Temple, a child who sings and dances. When this doesn't...

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In "Two Kinds," the narrator's mother wants her to be a prodigy—meaning a young person who has an extraordinary talent that makes that child famous. At first, the mother thinks the narrator can become a kind of Shirley Temple, a child who sings and dances. When this doesn't work, the mother attempts to make the narrator into a kind of whiz kid who knows all the world's capitals or who can memorize a page of the Bible after looking at a page for three minutes. When this plan also fails, the narrator's mother dedicates herself to turning her daughter into a piano prodigy. This plan fails as well when the narrator seems to behave lazily and does not practice, and then the narrator embarks on a series of life choices that continue to frustrate her mother's desires for her.

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Jing-mei's mother has recently emigrated to America from China, and she wants her Chinese American daughter to become a prodigy in some discipline. Together, they explore thoughts of Jing-mei becoming a singer and dancer like child star Shirley Temple or an academic whiz who can defeat all competitors on quiz shows. Finding no talent in those areas, Jing-mei's mother decides that playing piano will become Jing-mei's specialty. She purchases a piano and arranges lessons with an elderly Chinese man, and she pushes Jing-mei to practice, even when she resists. More than anything, she wants her daughter to be a public success who will win the approval or perhaps even envy of her fellow Chinese immigrants in their close-knit community. However, it is not to be, as Jing-mei possesses neither the natural talent nor the strong desire to be a prodigy.

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