Being Ashamed For Your Own Identity: Analysis Of The Short Story Fish Cheeks By Amy Tan
“Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan is a personal story based on a time in Tan’s life where she had a crush on a blonde hair blue-eyed American boy named Robert. The short story takes place on Christmas Eve where Amy expresses her embarrassment of Robert’s Family coming to Christmas Eve dinner and what Robert was going to think of her family’s traditional Chinese Christmas Eve dinner.
Amy’s mom cooks majority of Tan’s favorite dishes for Christmas Eve like tofu, squid, fish cheeks, and a variety of other dishes that she viewed as a non-traditional American dinner. With this in mind, Amy feared what Robert would think. She felt a wave of stress come over her as she visualized how the behavior and customs of her huge and distant family will be perceived. Amy was ashamed to be Chinese.
Amy’s mom notices Tan’s behavior and addressed her about her discomfort after dinner. Her mom didn’t want her to feel embarrassed about being a Chinese girl; rather her mom wanted her to feel proud of their culture. Her mom vocalizes to Amy that she ought to be glad to appear as someone else. Amy didn’t comprehend what her mom was attempting to teach her that night, but over time and growth, Tan realized her mom gave some good. In retrograde of Amy’s ideology of proper American etiquette and lifestyle, her mother was right. Chinese culture in itself is proper and acceptable in the United States. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday other than being with loved ones and sharing an admiration for one another at the dining room table. Pulling it all together using evidence from Tan’s story this essay will show how I agree with Tan’s identities as “being American”.
When Tan’s family arrives at her house, Tan is embarrassed by how her relatives “ eat uproariously with chopsticks and reach over the table into different dishes as opposed to passing the dishes around the table, as Robert’s family would hope to do” (Amy Tan). Tan’s mom declares that she made the fish cheeks since they were Tan’s favorite. The most cringe-worthy part of the dinner for Tan was when “her dad belches noisily after dinner, which in Tan culture is acceptable and polite since it demonstrates gratefulness for the meal” (Amy Tan). Despite the fact that her dad discloses this to Robert’s family, Amy is embarrassed and couldn’t wait for the night to be over. I don’t understand Tan embarrassment, there is nothing wrong with the food you like. What’s great about American is that we have access to many different cultures of food. Trying different foods from other cultures makes you a more cultured person. You should feel ashamed of the food you eat that make who you are.
As Americans, we commonly think of being ‘true Americans’ as an invisible person that stands for justice and liberty and for all. What really piques my interest is what does this all American look like and how Amy Tan’s idea of an American reflects the imagery of other authors. Personally, I visualize being American as simply living in this country and working for the betterment of the people that inhabit this land. The physicality of Americanism can’t be categorized because this country is known for being a melting pot in which everyone is allowed to enjoy. It’s hard to put one definition on how to be American, America is a very diverse country because according to the Census Bureau “61% white,12% Black, 18% Hispanic, 6% Asian, and 1% American Indian/ Alaska Native” (website).
It would be natural to adopted many different cultures, there’s is no right way to be American. After reading Tan’s article she shows a unique way the being yourself is “being American”. In the being, she was super embarrassed to be a Chinese girl and what to be like her American friends. But when her mom through some wisdom her way she wasn’t able to understand because she didn’t accept her culture. As time went on she was able to realize her culture is what makes her unique, and she should change that for no one but especially a boy.
Growing up I’ve learned that every culture has a different way of doing certain things. Since I was born and raised in American I have automatically picked of American manners but I have also acknowledged that manners I’m used to aren’t the only way to carry yourself, especially in American. Throughout Tan’s Article, she was continuously talking about how her family embarrassed her and how worried she was about Robert’s opinions of her and her culture. As stated in the text, Tan explains what she was thinking during dinner reasoning, “what would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked proper American manners?” (Amy Tan). Amy Tan’s idea of manners is based on the white perspective of America. With that being said, every American household has their own individual way of interacting with one another. Robert may very well have grown up in just as noisy a family as she had. Her expectations of being American is distorted from what is a reality.
The true reality is that Americans are not a monolith and each and every lifestyle varies from household to household. In addition, within the text she gets embarrassed about her dad shouting how steamed fish was her favorite food, sharing that she wanted to disappear. In my brain, I’m wondering why would she be so embarrassed over the food she enjoyed most. Obviously, Robert and Amy do come from different backgrounds, consequently shouldn’t she realize they would most likely have a difference in opinions? They were raised in two separate worlds and their families will share many differences, however, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to who a person is and their culture.
After everything is said and done, I agree with Tan’s message. As stated before there is no right way of “ being American”. People shouldn’t let others make you feel uncomfortable for being themselves. Everyone should be proud of their culture and want to educate other people about their culture so that individual a more rounded people. Along these lines, I appreciate the conclusion, when Tan realized the importance of the message her mom had and now takes in mind her mother’s words throughout her everyday life.
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“Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan is a personal story based on a time in Tan’s life where she had a crush on a blonde hair blue-eyed American boy named Robert. […]