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Lydia Liu wrote to Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club.
Dear Amy Tan,
If my life were left up to me, I wouldnít have been Chinese. Iíd prefer to be someone else, whose family didnít eat Chinese food everyday, someoneÖnormal. Well, itís also kind of hard knowing what normal is, but I know that the description does not fit me perfectly. Or so I thought.
My mom loves telling stories. Naturally on long car rides home, she would tell me stories of her childhood: the little hu tong that she lived in, how she woke up early to swim in the community swimming pool, or about that time my grandmother brought home an adorable little kitty for her, which she fondly named Hua Hua. Truthfully, during these story-telling times, I would much rather have been anywhere else. The stories were repeated, each time adding a little bit more than the previous. Now that I look back, I wonder why I didnít notice that she only told the same stories.
After reading The Joy Luck Club, I now realize that her stories were repeated because those were the happier times of her childhood. From all the mothers in The Joy Luck Club, I realize that they all kept their mouths shut about their darker past. My mom may not have a dark past, but I know that she has many secrets like me. If she doesnít tell me those stories, theyíll be lost forever. Maybe now isnít the right time, but someday, I hope sheíll tell me all her stories: some funny, some sad, some strange, some secrets, and maybe evens some lies. Each person has a story to tell, their legacy, what they leave behind.
I hope that unlike Jing Mei, my mom will be proud of me, and that she doesnít force me to find some nonexistent inner talent, although I also hope that she has her fair share of ďChinese-mom-braggingĒ times. I want my parents to keep telling me those ancient Chinese adages that, even though I dislike listening to, prove that they actually have hidden meanings. I want to keep on believing in everything my parents say, just like Rose did before she became a teenager.
Looking back on those silly days, when Iíd dream to be a real American girl, I realize that Iím more American than some of them. They may fit in the description of ďAmerican girl,Ē but they may never know what itís like to have parents so firm on good grades, what it is like to speak another language fluently, or have parents who built up their whole lives from $50 when they first came. I may sometimes mess up with my wording or be embarrassed by my parentís somewhat cut-u English, but I respect my heritage. Each day, I go home and I speak Chinese, eat Chinese food, and occasionally watch Chinese television. Itís a part of me that I didnít choose, but Iím glad I didnít because if I chose, I would have been left out of all the Chinese fun.
Lydia Liu, Grade 7
© The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. (Used by permission.)