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Teaching “Two kinds” by Amy Tan


Two Kinds” is a story in Amy Tan’s immensely successful first book, The Joy Luck Club. Tan intended the book to be read as a loose collection of interrelated stories, but it is often referred to as a novel. Several of the stories appeared in periodicals separately, many of them in Atlantic Monthly, which purchased the serial rights to the book prior to its publication. “Two Kinds” was initially published in the Atlantic in February 1989, one month before the book was released.

The Joy Luck Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like all the stories in the book, “Two Kinds” is concerned with the complex relationships between mothers and daughters. In particular, Tan’s subject is the distance between mothers who were born in China before the communist revolution and thus have been cut off from their native culture for decades and their American-born daughters who must negotiate the twin burdens of their Chinese ancestry and American expectations for success.

“My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous. “Of course, you can be a prodigy, too,” my mother told me when I was nine. “You can be best anything.” This is an extract from the short story “Two kinds” written by Amy Tan.  Born in the US to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan failed her mother’s expectations that she become a doctor and concert pianist. She settled on writing fiction.

Lesson plan, reading activities

  1. Read the short story. You can find it here.
  2. Do all the tasks you find here. Graphic organizer. Compare your answer with the rest of your group
  3. Answer these questions 
  4. How to analyze a short story – read and discuss
  5. Listen to podcast from the novel saving fish from drowning.
  6. Visit Amy Tan’s own blog

Discussion activities:

In groups discuss these questions

  1. Do you think parents should have a say in their children’s future plans?
  2. What does Jing-mei expect will happen at the recital? Does she plan to give the kind of performance that she gives? Why or why not?
  3. What is the significance of the twins baby girls?
  5. Determine the climax and the turning point.
  6. How much should children be allowed to decide for themselves?
  7. Discuss this statement: “It is more difficult for immigrant children to find their identity than other children.”
  8. Is it desirable to grow up without conflicts or are conflicts a necessary part of growing up?
  9. Finally, when do conflicts become destructive?

Written /oral activities

You have some choices here on how you want to share your opinion about the short story. The alternatives are listed here:

  1. Write a blog post about the short story, remember to include the topics you have discussed in your group.
  2. Make a radio show where one in the group is the Author, one is a reader and one is a critic. If four in the group have a radio show host too.
  3. Make a radio show where you interview the characters in the short story. Choose how many you need, have a radio host who asks the questions.
  4. Make a presentation where you answer the discussion questions above. Use pictures
  5. Make a video where you present the short story – use your creativity

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