June Mays mother was an immigrant from China. At the beginning of the story, June tells of how her mother tries to convey their familys history and legacy to her. June, who is fully americanized and almost completely ignorant of their heritage, tells of how at the age of fifteen she believes she is no more Chinese than her Caucasian friends even though her mother was persistent in convincing her that being Chinese could not be helped.
Her pass port reveals her American name which is June May but she chooses to introduce herself as Jing-Mei, which is her Chinese name. This incident is the start of her accepting her Chinese heritage. She has many misconceptions throughout the story; most about what is to be Chinese and the culture of China and the people that reside there. One example being she did not think that communist China would have such luxurious hotels, which is an example of American stereotyping. She compares her height to those of the people she is surrounded by when she gets off the train to head to customs, saying that she was much taller. She was expecting a traditional Chinese meal but her family opted for the hamburgers, fries, and apple pie instead. She was shocked when her younger cousin Lili posed as if she was a supermodel while taking a picture. June started to take in how American culture had shaped her way of thinking and that she was wrong in believing her family would be more different from her.
Often looking on the experiences of your families past is sometimes needed to discover who we are as a person. Going to China helps June understand how she is Chinese. As she learns more about her family and her mothers life and the sacrifices she had to make, Junes mindset changes more. She compares being Chinese to transforming into a werewolf as though it was something she would have to become. By the end of the story, she realizes that the part of her that is Chinese is her family, and it is in her blood. Becoming Chinese was not realistic and her mother was right. She was already Chinese, and it could not be helped. June Mays journey was never about becoming Chinese, or understanding the culture, it was about understanding who she is and knowing that there are parts of herself that she had no control of their existence. Finding her ethnic and cultural roots while in China allowed June May Woo to discover Jing-Mei Woo.