Illustration of the profiles of a young woman and an older woman facting away from each other

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Rules of the Game Summary

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Waverly Jong learned the “art of invisible strength” from her mother when she was a young girl, and she enjoyed her life in Chinatown, playing with her brothers in the alleys and around the stores. Waverly was named for Waverly Place, the street on which her family lived.

One Christmas, Waverly’s brother Vincent received a chess set at the First Chinese Baptist Church Christmas party. Waverly got a box of Life Savers candy. Waverly started playing chess with her brothers, and soon she was winning so much that they no longer wanted to play with her. She met the elderly man Lau Po at the park and started playing chess with him. He taught her all kinds of strategies and secrets, and soon she was a better player than her teacher. A man who watched her play suggested that she compete in a tournament.

Waverly won her first tournament and many thereafter, even at a national level. She became the “Chinatown Chess Champion” and something of a child prodigy. Her mother excused her from chores so that she could practice, but Waverly found it hard to concentrate with her mother always looking over her shoulder making noises.

Every Saturday, Waverly went with her mother to the market and listened as her mother announced to everyone that Waverly was her daughter. The girl asked her mother not to do it because it was embarrassing. She was tired of her mother showing her off. Waverly turned and bumped into a woman, spilling her groceries, and then dashed down the alley. She sat in the alley for two hours before heading home in the dark. Her mother would not speak to her, and Waverly went to her room and lay on her bed, pondering what her next move would be.

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