In "Fish Cheeks" a scant 500 words short story, Amy Tan serves up a coming of age story about an Asian American teenage girl. Tan’s setting of Christmas for a traditional Chinese dinner, shared with the American boy on whom the protagonist, Amy, has a crush, emphasizes the girl’s dual identity as an Asian American, a reality she is confronting head on. Forced to see her family traditions through the eyes of a white, Christian boy, she finds those traditions distasteful. Rather than delighting in the dishes her mother has lovingly prepared, she is revolted by them, fixated instead on the raw components of the meal she observes in her mother’s kitchen. The repeated references to bizarre ingredients are meant to do more however than elicit disgust. Tan’s emphasis on the uncooked nature of the food can be read as symbolic of Amy’s own rawness and immaturity, recalling anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s theories on the categories of the raw and the cooked.
Kevra, Susan K.
"From Raw to Cooked: Amy Tan’s “Fish Cheeks” through a Lévi-Straussian Lens,"
Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies: Vol. 6
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/aaldp/vol6/iss1/5