Two Kinds

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"Two Kinds" is a short story from the book The Joy Luck Club[1] by Amy Tan. It was first published in 1989.[2] The short story outlines the main character Jing-mei Woo’s childhood and the effects of her mother’s high expectations for her life. It is clear that some of the events in the short story reflect events that happened in the author’s life. For example, the main character's mother left China, leaving behind her family and children. The same is true with Amy Tan's mother.[3] In 1993, a movie based on the book was made.[4]

Character List[edit]

  • Jing-mei Woo (June) is the narrator as well as the protagonist. After being pushed by her mother to become a prodigy, she develops a rebellious attitude toward her mother.
  • Mother Jing-mei's mother
  • Mr. Chong is Jing-mei’s piano teacher. He is deaf and has poor eyesight.
  • Lindo Jong (Auntie Lindo) is Jing-mei's mother's friend.
  • Waverly Jong is Lindo's daughter. She is a Chinese chess champion and brags about it to Jing-mei.
  • Uncle Tin is Auntie Lindo's husband and Waverly Jong's father.


"Two Kinds" tells of a woman and daughter expecting a great life in America. The daughter, Jing-mei, wants desperately to become a "Chinese Shirley Temple" by making a career in singing and dancing. Her mother is consumed in the belief that Jing-mei is a genius, thus making her do pointless tests that she sees other prodigy children doing in magazines such as standing on her head and reciting world capitals. All of this proves to be useless and the idea begins to fade away until Jing-mei's mother decides to make Jing-mei take piano lessons with their neighbor, Mr. Chong. The ex-pianist is, however, deaf and has poor eyesight. Having a teacher with disabilities gives her the ability to play as she wants to and ultimately not learn. A talent show ensues and her mother signs her up out of pride toward her friend Lindo Jong, whose daughter is a prodigy chess player. She plays a song called Pleading Child and does absolutely terrible. She thought her mother would be mad because the whole town was there watching. Surprising to Jing-Mei, her mother says nothing to her about the recital. Later, her mother asks if she is going to the piano lessons. Thinking that the recital was bad enough for her mother to have a notion that she wanted to quit, she declined. Forcing her to go, Jing-Mei exclaims "I wish I had never been born; I wish I were dead! Like them [her babies in China]." This left a blank face on her mother, horrified by what her daughter had remarked. The piano lessons had stopped and she didn't have to do any of the trivial tests her mother had forced her to do before. Her mother dies and as an adult and Jing-mei is asked to take the old piano and her notes. She takes the piano into her home and begins playing through her old music. She finds that the song "Pleading Child" was only half of the song she had been playing. The other half was called "Perfectly Contented." [5]


  1. ^ Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
  2. ^ Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: an Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011.p.783. ISBN 978-0-312-59624-8
  3. ^ "Amy Tan Biography -- Academy of Achievement." Academy of Achievement Main Menu. Academy of Achievement, 17 June 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2008-07-02. >.
  4. ^ "The Joy Luck Club (1993) - IMDb." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). The Internet Movie Database. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <>.
  5. ^ 40 Short Stories A Portable Anthology Third Edition By Beverly Lawn