por Amy Tan
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The New Colossus
- Emma Lazarus
“The New Colossus” is a poem by Emma Lazarus that was published in 1883. It describes the millions of immigrants who came to America through the port of New York City at Ellis Island.Pair “The New Colossus” with “Fish Cheeks” to spark an in-depth conversation about immigration in America. Ask students to think about the following questions: Has the promise of “The New Colossus” been realized? How is immigration in America changed? What can we learn about the experience of Chinese-Americans in contemporary fiction?
The Lion in Love
- 620-560 B.C.
“The Lion in Love” is a short fable which describes the love a lion has for a human woman. He makes certain decisions as a result of his feelings that he normally might not have.Pair “The Lion in Love” with “Fish Cheeks” to give students a more in depth lesson on the dangers of changing ourselves to please others.
- Saul McLeod
“Self-Concept” introduces several psychology concepts that describe how people think about themselves.Pair “Self-Concept” with “Fish Cheeks,” and ask students to apply Carl Rogers’ ideas to the narrator of the short story. Do students think the narrator in “Fish Cheeks” experiences incongruence, i.e. a mismatch between her self-image and her ideal self? How does the Christmas dinner described in the story affect her self-esteem?
The Last Class: The Story of a Little Alsatian
- Alphonse Daudet
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was a French writer. This story about the repercussions of war on culture takes place in Alsace after the Franco-Prussian war. In the tale, a young Alsatian boy is met with a surprising announcement when he arrives at his French class: French lessons have been forbidden, and only German may be taught in their region.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “The Last Class: The Story of the Little Alsatian” and ask students to discuss the common themes of culture and change. In which story do the characters embrace cultural changes? In which do they resist them? Why?
On the Reverence Due Father- and Mother-in-Law
- Zhao Ban
- c. 49 - c. 120
China’s first female historian Zhao Ban advises women on the proper way to treat their in-laws.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “On the Reverence Due Father- and Mother-in-Law” to expose students to takes on Chinese culture nearly two millennia apart. Honor might not mean what a reader expects in Zhao Ban’s “On the Reverence Due Father- and Mother-in-Law.” Similarly, in “Fish Cheeks,” the narrator is embarrassed by her father following the custom of burping after a meal to show appreciation, which astonishes guests who come from a culture where burping is rude. How might time period and culture affect the ways people show respect?
The Stolen Party
- Liliana Heker
In “The Stolen Party,” Liliana Heker tells the story of a girl who is invited to her friend’s party, whose family also employs her mother as their housekeeper.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “The Stolen Party” and ask students to compare how someone’s family identity can influence how they view themselves and other people. What can these two texts teach readers about the importance of identity?
- Li-Young Lee
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “Eating Together,” a family shares a meal after losing the speaker’s father.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Eating Together” and ask students to compare the family dynamics in the two texts. What significance do family meals have in the texts?
I Ask My Mother to Sing
- Li-Young Lee
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “I Ask My Mother to Sing,” the narrator’s mother and grandmother sing of their old home in China.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “I Ask My Mother To Sing” and ask students to further discuss the experiences of children whose parents immigrated. Why might the narrators feel differently about their family’s traditions in each text? How do they relate differently to their backgrounds?
Hello, My Name Is ______
- Jason Kim
In the personal account “Hello, My Name Is _______,” Jason Kim discusses accepting his Korean American identity and his experiences assimilating into American culture.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Hello, My Name Is _______” and ask students to discuss how the themes of identity and self-acceptance are explored in the two texts. Why do Tan and Kim initially reject aspects of their cultural identities? What are they attempting to achieve by doing this?
- Shel Silverstein
In Shel Silverstein’s poem “Underface,” a speaker describes the face they show to the world and the one that hides underneath.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Underface” and ask students to discuss how the two texts explore different aspects of a person’s identity. Why does Amy try to hide parts of her identity? Why do you think the speaker in “Underface” presents a certain identity to the world? Do you think the characters are disadvantaged if they choose to hide parts of who they are?
Eating in Silence
- Pamela Huber
In Pamela Huber’s poem “Eating in Silence,” a speaker describes making lasagna: a recipe passed down by their grandmother.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Eating in Silence” and ask students to discuss how the two texts explore the experience of family meals. How do the experiences depicted in the two texts differ? Why are family meals important? What do they mean to the families in these two texts?
My Favorite Things
- Joy Cowley
In Joy Cowley’s story “My Favorite Things,” a narrator discusses their favorite things with their grandmother.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “My Favorite Things” and ask students to compare how the two narrators feel about their families. How does Amy Tan feel about her favorite food being on the menu in “Fish Cheeks”? How does this compare to the narrator’s discussion of their favorite things in “My Favorite Things”? How do both texts explore the importance of family?
Summer with Papaji
- Jyoti Singh Visvanath
In Jyoti Singh Visvanath’s “Summer with Papaji,” Visvanath discusses spending time on her grandfather’s farm during the summer.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Summer with Papaji” and ask students to compare how both texts explore the concept of “family.” How does Amy’s family show that they love her during dinner? How does this compare to Papaji’s actions towards Jyoti in “Summer with Papaji”?
Athena and the Dandelions
- Leeann Zouras
In Leeann Zouras’ short story “Athena and the Dandelions,” a girl is embarrassed that her Greek family eats dandelions.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Athena and the Dandelions” and ask students to discuss how both texts explore being pride in personal identity. Why are Athena and Amy embarrassed by what their families serve for dinner? How are the dinner guests in both texts open-minded?
- Adrienne Su
In Adrienne Su’s poem “Peaches,” a speaker describes being the child of Chinese immigrants in America.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Peaches” and ask students to discuss how Amy Tan and the speaker of the poem feel at odds with their Chinese identity. What similar experiences do Tan and the speaker of “Peaches” have as children of immigrants? What is the significance of food in the two texts?
The Medicine Bag
- Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
In Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s short story “The Medicine Bag,” Martin’s grandpa visits him and passes down a medicine bag to him, an important object in their family.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “The Medicine Bag” and ask students to discuss Martin and Amy Tan's relationship with their family members and their customs. How does Martin react when his grandpa comes to visit? How does this compare to Tan's reaction to the food her family cooks? How do Martin and Tan come to accept their cultures and the traditions associated with them?
The White Umbrella
- Gish Jen
In Gish Jen’s short story “The White Umbrella,” a Chinese American girl sees a white umbrella that she wishes she could own.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “The White Umbrella” and ask students to discuss how the experiences of Amy Tan and the narrator in “The White Umbrella” compare. When are they embarrassed by their family members and why? How do certain objects in the two stories take on similar symbolic meanings?
- Gary Soto
In Gary Soto’s short story, “Growing Up,” a teenage girl decides she’s too old for family vacations.Pair “Fish Cheeks” with “Growing Up” to provide students with another short story about a teenage girl’s relationship with her parents. Ask students to discuss how Amy and Maria clash with their parents. Why is Amy embarrassed by the meal her mother cooks and her family’s behavior? How does this compare to Maria’s anger with her father and her reluctance to go on family vacation? How are both girls struggling with who they are at this time in their lives?