Amy Tan's "Fish Cheeks" an essay originally out of an issue of Seventeen Magazine focuses on overcoming embarrassment and having pride in yourself and your culture. In the essay Amy describes her Christmas eve dinner when she as fourteen, and the humiliation that she felt when her crush (the ministers son) and his family had been invited to have a traditional chinese meal. When she she found out he was invited to dinner, she cried for fear of what he might think of her and her family "What would Robert think of our shabby chinese Christmas? What would he think of our noisy chinese relatives who lacked proper american manners?" (Bedford Reader 99 ). Naturally her worst fears came true when her mother brought out the steamed fish, eyeballs and everything still intact, her father added to her discomfort by poking it's cheeks and announcing that it was her favorite.
Once everyone had left, Amy's mother handed her a gift, a tweed skirt, and told her that she could look like an american girl on the outside but must remain chinese on the inside, saying "Your only shame is to have shame." (Bedford Reader 100). A lesson she didn't fully appreciate or understand for many years, because that year they cooked al her favorite foods for Christmas.
Tan's description of her embarrassment throughout the whole essay is something that I can completely relate to. Especially when she describes her family's manners at dinner, I felt the mortification with her, I also have had people over to my house who I've wanted to impress and wanted to dig my own grave. The perfect example is in the third paragraph on page 10o when she illustrates her father's final "word" at dinner.