What is the setting of Amy Tan's "Two Kinds"?

The setting of "Two Kinds" is San Francisco, California.

The story relates Jing-Mei's experiences growing up in California as the daughter of parents who immigrated from China as adults.

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Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club presents the stories of four mother-daughter pairs. Each of the mothers was born and raised in China, while each of the daughters is brought up in San Francisco, California. Due to the differences in the parents' and childrens' backgrounds and upbringings, the usual mother-daughter tensions that occur as girls grown up is amplified. The daughters must struggle with their "hyphenated identities," often feeling as though they do not fully fit into either Chinese nor American culture. The mothers grapple with communicating their stories to their daughters, and especially their hopes for their daughters to have greater opportunities than they once had.

"Two Kinds" is narrated by Jing-Mei, daughter of Suyuan, and recounts Jing-Mei's childhood experiences with trying to find her "talent." Her mother is convinced that her daughter is a "genius" and that she can become famous like Shirley Temple. The setting of San Francisco certainly informs this storyline because Suyuan is influenced by the idea of the American dream. She feels that her daughter, an American citizen, can and should be extremely successful, like the child stars she sees on television. Suyuan's misguided hopes for her daughter result in Jing-Mei's resentment and her self-sabotage at her first piano recital. The California setting highlights how Jing-Mei's expectations for her future are different from her mother's expectations of her. Jing-Mei takes her freedom to do whatever she wants for granted in a way, and her mother thinks their current residence in "the land of opportunity" should be taken full advantage of, hence her unrealistically high expectations for Jing-Mei.

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In Amy Tan's story entitled "Two Kinds," the reader learns that Jing-Mei "June" Woo's mother tells her daughter that she came to San Francisco in 1949. Jing-Mei is nine years old when she learns about her mother's arrival in America, so the time setting of this story is during the late 1950s-early 1960s. Like others from China, the family probably lives in Chinatown, where many working-class Chinese immigrants have arrived from Hong Kong during this time period.

Believing that America is the great "land of opportunity," June's mother wants her to become a child prodigy. Perhaps, this goal is set for June because her mother has fled her war-torn country after losing her first husband, two twin baby daughters, and her mother and father. To compensate for these losses of loved ones, the mother may want her daughter to overachieve in order to make her proud and exonerate her of the guilt of having lived when the rest of her family died. She wants to "make a fortress of her home" (Enotes), perhaps, because she has had no control over the misfortunes that befell her first family. In the end, the daughter realizes she and her mother are "two kinds" of the same soul because each one of them has simply wanted to be in control of life, something that the setting of America can allow them to do.

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Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" takes place in Chinatown in San Francisco in the years shortly after 1949. The time is likely the 1950s, as the main character and her mother watch Shirley Temple movies (already a bit old at this point) and the Ed Sullivan Show on television. This era was the second wave of Chinese immigration; the first wave, which started in the 1850s, was ended by various exclusion acts starting in the 1880s and continuing into the 1920s. After World War II, many Chinese people again began to immigrate to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other parts of California and the west coast (and other parts of the country). The mother in the story has immigrated to California after losing a great deal in China, including her parents, her husband, and her older children. She wants to start a new life in California, and television, including the Ed Sullivan Show, and magazines are in part her guide to the way Americans should live. 

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Amy Tan's story "Two Kinds" is set in mid-century San Francisco. The family lives in Chinatown and the story relates the fact that they moved there in 1949. 

The story moves from place to place in San Francisco, with some action taking place in the family's home and other action occurring at the piano instructor's home and at a talent show/recital.

The cultural setting is perhaps as important to the story as the physical setting. The narrator's mother is enamored with the idea that her daughter (the narrator) is a child prodigy who will bring pride to the family. Some of the mother's ideas are drawn from television (the Ed Sullivan show and other talent showcases) and from books like Ripley's Believe It or Not.

"The mother also reads countless 'stories about remarkable children' in the magazines she brings home from the houses she cleans" (eNotes).

These cultural influences help to shape the course of the story and serve as significant elements of the background. If not for the cultural thread promoting the notion of child prodigies, the narrator's mother may not have pushed her daughter to develop a talent. 

This insistence from the mother is the animating tension of the story. 

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We are told in the beginning of the story that Jing Mei's mother is a Chinese immigrant who came to San Francisco in 1949. The reader can assume that the story takes place here, and Amy Tan throws in descriptions of different locales - The Mission District, an ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Francisco, and the fact that Jing - Mei live on Sacramento Street in Chinatown - to clarify this. Using references like the Ed Sullivan Show, the reader could also assume that it is most likely the mid 1960s.

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