Dear Amy Tan,
"A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you. " Each time 1 read this line, 1 feel a familiar sensation spread through my body. An-Mei's words to Rose remind me of how deep the connection between my mother and 1 runs. And yet sometimes 1 find that very connection slowly fading away.
The first time I picked up The Joy Luck Club was in the eighth grade. My mother had borrowed the book from a friend, and suggested that I read it first. It was amazing, eye-opening, to say the least. But my perspective only went so far. Simply put, 1 had just added another well-renowned title under my belt.
Two years ago 1 reopened your book, an idea forming in my mind. 1 had joined my school's speech team after being pushed by my mother to pursue an after-school activity. I chose prose poetry (also known as oral interpretation) as my event, and I started on the hunt for a script. One day I thought, why not take an excerpt from The Joy Luck Club? I reencountered Jing-Mei and her story in "Two Kinds," and found it to be a perfect match--we were both Chinese American, played the piano, and faced our own mother's set of expectations. I was able to perform the piece with strong feeling. The excitement, anger, and guilt Jing-Mei or her mother experienced were nothing new to me.
The day that I asked my history teacher to watch and critique on my performance, I was hesitant. My worries of failing to give a solid performance turned out not to be the main problem. I realized this when my teacher pointed out, "I can see why you're doing this piece." That caught me. "Have you performed it for your mother yet?" he continued. No, I answered inside my head. I found myself compelled and yet embarrassed. My reaction to his comment was to look down and smile sheepishly, but inside I knew that he had struck gold.
I realized that Jing Mei and I were alike, but at the same time I was afraid of becoming the very thing that each Joy Luck Club mother feared: an ignorant child. One who dismissed her own culture, attempted to become what she could never completely become, and never listened to her own mother. What was living the "American Dream," if all my mother had strived for resulted in a daughter who paid no heed to her struggles and hopes? My teacher's words drew upon me in a bitter sense: I was able to relate to the four girls so well because each represented a part of me. What was worse was the possibility of my mother beginning to lose hope of having a daughter who could connect to and communicate with her.
Every now and then I reread the pages of my mother's borrowed copy (she still hasn't returned it yet...luckily her friend doesn't mind). The whirlwind of life can make people forget who they are; and I am no exception. Each time I read, your vivid words push me to reflect and act--two important concepts that for much of my life I seemed to have put aside. Your words enkindle me to draw upon my experiences and to make a stronger attempt at effectively communicating with my mother. There is no language barrier between us, however. The barrier lies in the other cultural differences between us--our upbringings, memories, successes, and failures.
And so I end my letter to you with this: Thank you, for giving me the extra push to strengthen the connection between my mother and me.