The purpose of Fish Cheeks by Amy Tan is to teach people not to be ashamed of their true heritage; it is who they are inside that makes them who they are.
This message is communicated in the short narrative about Amy, a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl who lives in America. She has a crush on the Minister's son Robert, and she is mortified when she discovers that his family is coming to her Chinese Christmas Eve dinner.
Unfortunately, Amy is a teenager ashamed of her Chinese family and its traditions: in this case, the Chinese food cooked on Christmas Eve. She desperately wants to fit in and shuns the food: "My father poked his chopsticks just below the fish eye and plucked out the soft meat. 'Amy, your favorite,' he said, offering me the tender fish...
cheek. I wanted to disappear."
She is also embarrassed by cultural traditions: "At the end of the meal, my father leaned back and belched loudly, thanking my mother for her fine cooking. 'It’s a polite Chinese custom to show you are satisfied,' explained my father to our astonished guests. Robert was looking at his plate with a reddened face. The minister managed to muster up a quiet burp. I was stunned into silence for the rest of the night."
While she is embarrassed by her heritage at the beginning of the narrative, she eventually realizes that her parents are trying to help her build her confidence in her identity and culture. Ultimately, she ends up feeling proud to be Chinese.