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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

My mother was born the Year of the Tiger but despite our strict academically focused upbringing, she was no "tiger mother," as described by Amy Chua. Chua's article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago set off a whole storm of debate across the Internets. Her Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior article/excerpt from her just released book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," got thousands of comments and people alternately praising and condemning her. I got forwarded, Tweeted, Facebooked, Tumblred, and instant messaged about the article no less than a dozen times.

Because this is a book blog, I won't go into how I personally feel about Chua's article but will instead celebrate an Asian American author who is tearing up the Amazon charts -- currently number five overall. There's a good chance Chua will be the best selling Asian American author of 2011, and we're only two weeks in! I bet my mom would have pushed me much harder if she knew that all it took to move units was to harass me into excellence and then have me pass on that ethos when/if I start parenting.

People complain about Asian kids overrunning their finer institutions, those Asian kids complain about being stereotyped as nerds, and now this debate over which is the best way to raise your overachieving Sea Monkey. *Yawn* Seriously, are people just now getting hip to the idea that immigrant parents -- and many non-immigrant parents -- go to extreme measures to give their children a leg up on the competition?

Let's not forget that amidst all this (faux-)controversy, Chua is a very smart and successful lady, a professor of law at Yale, and has published a couple of other well received books with titles like "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2004)" and "Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance -- and Why They Fall (2009)." In case you start with either of these two, Slate's Audio Book Club has selected Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother for January so you probably want to rethink that decision -- unless you just really care more about how hyperpowers rose and fell instead of hard ass Asian parenting. I mean, both topics are equally relevant in my life today.

[Update: 1.13.2011] Jeff Yang's newest Asian Pop column, "Mother Superior?", puts some perspective on everything. And he contacts Chua to see what she has to say.


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