I worried for two days, until logic and deduction enabled me to reclaim my race. First of all, I reasoned, Mother was American. Although my father was dead, it was obvious he had been an American, since I had fair skin, brown hair, and green eyes. I wore Western clothing and regular shoes. I had not had my feet crushed and wedged like dumpling dough into a tiny shoe. I was educated, too, and in difficult subjects, such as history and science"and for no greater purpose than Knowledge Alone," my tutor had said. Most Chinese girls learned only how to behave.
What's more, I did not think like a Chinese personno kowtowing to statues, no smoky incense, and no ghosts. Mother told me: "Ghosts are superstitions, conjured up by a Chinese person's own fears. The Chinese are a fearful lot and thus they have many superstitions." I was not fearful. And I did not do everything a certain way just because that was how it had been done for a thousand years. I had Yankee ingenuity and an independent mind; Mother told me that. It was my idea, for example, to give the servants modern forks to use instead of ancient chopsticks. Mother, however, ordered the servants to return the silverware. She said that each tine was more valuable than what a servant might earn in a year, and thus, the servants might be tempted to sell the forks. The Chinese did not hold the same opinion about honesty as we Americans. I agreed. Now if I were Chinese, would I have said that about myself?
Copyright © 2013 by Amy Tan. Used by permission of HarperCollins
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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