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Tan even gives her two names, one that ties her identity to each culture.Her official name, “Waverly Place Jong,” comes from the street her family lives on—quite literally a patch of America, albeit a long and narrow one.Her family calls her Meimei, Chinese for “little sister.” Not surprisingly, she has learned to maneuver through the incompatibilities of these two worlds.
What cultural innovation could be more appalling than torture?
It is an ugliness, which means excellence only makes it uglier.
In this way, she becomes a national champion and gets her picture on the cover of magazine.
This is, in fact, the embodiment of the American Dream: no matter where you come from, if you have the smarts, take initiative, and work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
She accosts an old man playing in the park and convinces him to mentor her.
She gives up social activities to study chess theory.She doesn’t even let her characters fully recognize them.In fact, she never once uses the word “culture.” Instead, she embeds these ideas in the details—description, action, characterization—a narrative technique originally developed by realists such as Flaubert, whose goal was to be “present everywhere and visible nowhere” in his stories.I was delighted by Tan’s hilarious, acerbic portraits of the Chinese mother, full of pride and confusion and dislocated old-world values, speaking in her brusque broken English.As she tugs knots from Waverly’s hair, for example, Waverly teases her ruthlessness by asking about Chinese torture.The story is about Waverly Jong, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, as she ascends to the highest levels of competitive chess by age nine.It has a number of superficial pleasures, and this was what drew me in initially.White visitors want to adopt the turtles; Chinese residents want to eat them.This is how the details begin to signal the story’s larger themes of cultural conflict.And under the ice, in the dim green light, another story is being told.” The ice, in this case, is Waverly’s pursuit of chess, while the cultural conflicts swim in the dim green light.Waverly, born American to Chinese parents, is growing up in two worlds.