Frances has one job in life: to get into Berkeley and become a doctor so that her mother’s ambitions will be realized. And Frances doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that, until the day she accidentally steps into a speech class and begins to discover a talent her mother wouldn’t approve of.
Frances turns out to be a natural at debate and public speaking. But to win in competition, she needs to say things she really believes — and to hide what she’s doing from her mother. And once Frances steps out beyond her narrowly prescribed life, she begins to question many things about the way she is raised. Why can’t she go to a dance with a boy who likes her? Why can’t she get a job, or have any money of her own? And most of all, why is her mother never happy with her?
Frances knows she should be obedient, and that her mother has sacrificed everything so she can succeed. But when it’s time to take the biggest step of her life, will Frances have the courage to defy her mother?
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With the encouragement of one of her teachers, a Chinese American high school senior asserts herself against her demanding, old-school mother and carves out an identity for herself in late 1980s San Francisco.