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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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Meimei and her family live in San Francisco's Chinatown on a street named Waverly Place. Waverly's mother named her daughter after the street they live on in Chinatown, and Waverly enjoys growing up in the energetic part of San Francisco. Waverly and her family live in a small two-bedroom apartment above a bakery, where they struggle to make ends meet. One Christmas, Waverly and her brothers attend a Christmas party at the First Chinese Baptist Church down the road, and her brother receives a used chess set as a gift. After the children read the rules of the game, they begin playing, and Waverly becomes fascinated with the game of chess. Waverly ends up becoming a chess prodigy and quickly becomes the best chess player in Chinatown, until her mother's forceful personality makes her second-guess whether she wants to continue playing chess.

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Meimei, the protagonist of Amy Tan's short story "The Rules of the Game," lives in the Chinatown area of San Francisco, California, with her strict mother, father, and two brothers, Vincent and Winston. Meimei's real name is Waverly Place Jong, and she is named for the street which the family lives on. The family dwells in a two-bedroom flat situated above a Chinese bakery which is best known for their dim sum and steamed pastries. Meimei describes the apartment as "warm" and clean" and likes that she can detect the scents drifting in from the bakery below: "fragrant red beans. . . cooked down to a pasty sweetness. . . fried sesame balls and sweet curried chicken crescents." The apartment is located on an alley that is two blocks long and which is close to a playground, and contains Ping Yuen Fish Market, Hong Sing's cafe, and the China Gem Company. Despite the poverty of the area, Meimei insists that she grew up never knowing that her family was poor. 

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