Lilly is second-generation Chinese, and desperately wants to blend with her friends into an American environment. She is embarrassed by her mother's need to stay with traditional practices and customs, such as the playing of mah jong with old acquaintances. In Mah Jong Orphan, their mutual lack of understanding creates tension as they try to keep their relationship from deteriorating. When Lilly marries out of her race, her mother experiences mixed feelings. After a grandchild arrives, matters are smoothed over, and Lilly finds that customs and rituals can be part of her life as well.
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