Fish Cheeks is a short story written by Amy Tan, first published in 1989. It is an autobiographical tale of a young girl struggling to reconcile her Chinese heritage with American culture during Christmas dinner. The protagonist, 14-year-old Amy, is embarrassed when her crush Robert arrives for dinner at her house and discovers that she and her family are celebrating an unfamiliar holiday tradition: eating fish cheeks as part of their festive meal. Through this eventful evening, readers gain insight into the challenges faced by immigrants living in America while trying to maintain their cultural identity.
The main theme of Fish Cheeks revolves around the idea of cultural assimilation. As many immigrant families do upon arrival in America, Amy's parents have adopted some aspects of Western culture while still maintaining certain traditional values from their home country, such as eating fish cheeks on special occasions like Christmas Day. While Amy initially feels ashamed about this strange custom being revealed to Robert, she soon realizes that there is beauty and strength found in embracing one's own unique background, even if it differs from what others consider "normal" or popular customs within society at large. This concept can be seen through both how other characters react towards these differences (such as Robert's acceptance) and also through how Amy views herself throughout the story, eventually coming to terms with who she truly is despite any potential embarrassment associated with it along the way.
The narrative style employed by Tan helps bring out the themes of shame, pride, and acceptance effectively throughout Fish Cheeks. Told from a first-person perspective using limited omniscience, we get an intimate look into not only events taking place but, more importantly, how they affect those involved emotionally. We experience firsthand just how much pride Amy takes in standing up for herself against societal norms, showing us that individuals should never feel ashamed for being themselves, no matter where they come from or what customs they practice. Ultimately, this allows readers to empathize with our protagonist and understand why cultural assimilation can sometimes lead people away from finding their true selves, instead focusing on conforming rather than accepting individualism.
In conclusion, Fish Cheeks serves as an excellent example of diaspora literature that delves into the effects of immigration, such as acculturation versus preserving one's native roots. By exploring issues related to identity formation among minority groups, stories like these provide valuable insights into understanding different perspectives regarding topics often overlooked, especially within today's globalized world, making them essential reading materials for anyone seeking knowledge about multiculturalism or social justice.