What American values do Jing-mei and her mother share?

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Two core values of Americans are freedom and self-determination, and both Jing-mei and her mother are committed to them. Jing-mei's mother, an immigrant, valued freedom enough to come to America after losing everything in China. She believed that in the free country of America "you could be anything you wanted to be." As a young girl, Jing-mei had aspirations: becoming a child star like Shirley Temple, or becoming an intellectual prodigy who could recite facts or do complicated math in her head, and for awhile, she went along with her mother's urging to be a self-made star in some field.

Many Americans value fame; our national preoccupation with celebrities is undeniable. Jing-mei's mother brings home magazines with stories about children who have become famous for their precociousness. Jing-mei admires the way "the fluffy skirt of her white dress cascaded to the floor like petals of a large carnation" when she watches a young Chinese pianist perform on the Ed Sullivan show. Later, at her own piano recital, she wears "a white dress, layered with sheets of lace..." and  "as [she] sat down, [she] envisioned people jumping to their feet and Ed Sullivan rushing up to introduce [her] to everyone on TV." Both Jing-mei and her mother, who insisted on piano lessons, yearned for her fame.

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I would say that both Jing-mei and Suyuan both share the American value of individuality.  Especially Jing-mei.  Individuality is a dominating American value.  It always has been.  The first ten amendments to the American Constitution guarantee rights to individuals.  Burger King allows a person to "have it your way." Sprite wants you to "obey your thirst."  Corona beer advertises the importance of "find your beach."  Scion has had two slogans aimed at individuality.  "What moves you?" and "United by individuality."  In my media studies class, I teach about the American value of rugged individualism.  Think American truck commercials.  Individuality is a powerful and long lasting American value.  

Suyuan wants Jing-mei to be special, different, unique, etc.  She wants her daughter to stand out.  Suyuan may not believe that she herself has the ability to stand out, but the fact that Suyuan pushes Jing-mei so hard toward that goal shows just how much she believes in the value.  Jing-mei fights back just as hard as she is being pushed too, because Jing-mei wants to be her own person.  She doesn't want to be who her mom wants her to be.  

"You want me to be something that I'm not!" I sobbed. " I'll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be!"

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