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Quotes

Quote #19

It would have been enough to think that even one of these dangers could befall a child. And even though the birthdates corresponded to only one danger, my mother worried about them all. This was because she couldn’t figure out how the Chinese dates, based on the lunar calendar, translated into American dates. So by taking them all into account, she had absolute faith she could prevent every one of them. (II.3.53)

An-mei sees her duty as a mother to protect her children at all costs. Unable to figure out which dangers she should look out for, An-mei tries to protect her children by guarding against every possible hazard.

Quote #20

But my mother sighed. "Yesterday, you not finish rice either." I thought of those unfinished mouthfuls of rice, and then the grains that lined my bowl the day before, and the day before that. By the minute, my eight-year-old heart grew more and more terror-stricken over the growing possibility that my future husband was fated to be this mean boy Arnold. (III.1.21)

A mother’s words can have a lot of power. In this case, Lena takes her mom too seriously and it eventually leads to unintended consequences.

Quote #21

"Lena cannot eat ice cream," says my mother.

"So it seems. She’s always on a diet."

"No, she never eat it. She doesn’t like."

"And now Harold smiles and looks at me puzzled, expecting me tot translate what my mother has said.

"It’s true," I say evenly. "I’ve hated ice cream almost all my life."

Harold looks at me, as if I too, were speaking Chinese and he could not understand. I guess I assumed you were just trying to lose weight…oh well."

"She become so thin now you cannot see her," says my mother. "She like a ghost, disappear."

That’s right! Christ, that’s great," exclaims Harold, laughing, relieved in thinking my mother is graciously trying to rescue him. (III.1.90)

Ying-ying knows her daughter far better than her daughter’s husband does. Lena can’t hide from her mom the deterioration of her spirit as a result of the bad marriage. In the marriage, Ying-ying also sees her own influence on her daughter: Ying-ying became a ghost in her marriage and has passed that bad example on to her daughter.

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