Semi-coherent thoughts on the Tiger Mother’s essay and the importance of context

This is my semi-coherent response to “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.

I have not read Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I also haven’t yet watched her interview on this morning’s Today show.

My response is only semi-coherent, because reading her essay dredged up residual anger and frustration at the community I like to refer to as the OCP (Old Chinese People). So I am a bit biased.

It seems that the essay was taken out of context. It certainly is provocative. As of about 11pm tonight, this excerpt from Amy Chua’s book is the most read, most emailed, and most commented article on WSJ.com.

I am deeply disappointed in the decision (of an editor, the book publisher, Amy Chua herself?) to publish this excerpt without giving proper context. And no, a book review published 3 days later (that does give more context) does not excuse that decision.

All we really needed was the statement that’s on the cover of the book:

This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.

But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year old.

I hope, at the very least, that the reactions this excerpt has provoked will lead to productive discussions about the stigma of mental illness in the Asian-American community. The most poignant reaction I have read thus far is Christine Lu’s post on Quora:

My big sister was what I used to jealously call “every Asian parents wet dream come true” (excuse the crassness, but it really does sum up the resentment I used to feel towards her). She got straight As. Skipped 5th grade. Perfect SAT score. Varsity swim team. Student council. Advanced level piano. Harvard early admission. An international post with the Boston Consulting Group in Hong Kong before returning to the U.S. for her Harvard MBA. Six figure salary. Oracle. Peoplesoft. Got engaged to a PhD. Bought a home. Got married.

Her life summed up in one paragraph above.

Her death summed up in one paragraph below.

Committed suicide a month after her wedding at the age of 30 after hiding her depression for 2 years. She ran a plastic tube from the tailpipe of her car into the window. Sat there and died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of her new home in San Francisco. Her husband found her after coming home from work. A post-it note stuck on the dashboard as her suicide note saying sorry and that she loved everyone.

Mine is an extreme example of course. But 6 years since her passing, I can tell you that the notion of the “superior Chinese mother” that my mom carried with her also died with my sister on October 28, 2004. If you were to ask my mom today if this style of parenting worked for her, she’ll point to a few boxes of report cards, trophies, piano books, photo albums and Harvard degrees and gladly trade it all to have my sister back.

For my own reference, I wanted to collect in one place some of the reactions to Chua’s essay/excerpt. Below are some links, not necessarily in any particular order. Let me know if there’s something I should add to my list. I am mostly interested in pieces that significantly add to the discussion, although humor is always appreciated.

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior by Amy Chua

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Clare McHugh, Wall Street Journal

‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior’: We’ll See on the Hyphen Magazine blog by Ask a Model Minority Suicide

your permissive western parenting is inferior by Angry Asian Man

P.S. You suck on Resist racism

Thoughts From the Daughter of a Chinese Mother by Julianne Hing on TheAtlantic.com

Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy by Betty Ming Liu

Tales of a Chinese daughter: On the superiority or not of Amy Chua’s Chinese mothers on Shanghaiist

Christine Lu’s response to “Is Amy Chua right…?” on Quora

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2 thoughts on “Semi-coherent thoughts on the Tiger Mother’s essay and the importance of context

  1. Thanks for posting on this; I’m relieved to hear that this article was indeed a troll, perpetrated by WSJ as linkbait. I’m going to make the most of it by passing this along to my family’s mailing list. The more attention to this topic, the better.

    Like

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