In this way, Precious Auntie taught me to be naughty, just like her. She taught me to be curious, just like her. She taught me to be spoiled. And because I was all these things, she could not teach me to be a better daughter, though, in the end, she tried to change my faults.

This quotation comes from LuLing’s narrative of the past, when she describes a moment in her childhood when Precious Auntie playfully mocked the other more reserved women in their family. The quotation shows LuLing’s understanding of how her close relationship with Precious Auntie shaped her identity and character. Even though, at this point, LuLing did not know that Precious Auntie was her biological mother, she was being influenced by Precious Auntie more than the other adults because of how much time the two of them spent together. Precious Auntie had an unusual childhood because her father gave her a lot of independence and ensured that she was well-educated. This childhood made Precious Auntie confident and resilient, which proved very valuable after she encountered tremendous pain and suffering in her life. Precious Auntie passed this same perspective on to her daughter, even though she was not allowed to tell LuLing the true nature of their relationship.

LuLing describes the qualities she learns from Precious Auntie as being mainly negative, but she fails to see how they eventually benefited her. LuLing is haunted by regret and grief because she thinks her stubborn and arrogant ways led to her mother’s suicide. While her headstrong behavior may have contributed to the tragic event, it also gave her the self-reliance to survive being sent to the orphanage, living through a war, moving to a foreign country, losing two husbands, and raising a child as a single mother. If LuLing had been more passive or more traditional, she might not have been able to rise to these challenges. LuLing is so trapped by shame and regret that she cannot recognize her own strengths and value. Because LuLing has shame and negative associations with the qualities she displayed as a young girl, she also lashes out when she sees her own daughter displaying the same qualities. Ruth cannot understand why her mother is so harsh with her, but this description of the shame LuLing feels around her past behavior sheds light on why LuLing is so afraid of her daughter becoming independent and free thinking.