Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tiger Mom a Pussycat?

So says Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, claims she didn't have much say in how the Wall Street Journal excerpted her book or headlined the article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.  From Yang's article:
Chua responded to a brief message I sent her introducing myself and asking for an interview bysaying that she was glad to hear from me, as she'd been looking for a way to discuss her misgivings about the Journal article. Apparently, it had been edited without her input, and by the time she saw the version they intended to run, she was limited in what she could do to alter it.

"I was very surprised," she says. "The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they'd put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn't even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end -- that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model."

* * *

"I'm not going to retract my statements about Chinese parenting. But I'd also note that I'm aware now of the limitations of that model -- that it doesn't incorporate enough choice, that it doesn't account for kids' individual personalities. And yet, I would never go all the way to the Western ideal of unlimited choice. Give 10-year-olds total freedom, and they'll be playing computer games eight hours a day. I now believe there's a hybrid way of parenting that combines the two paradigms, but it took me making a lot of mistakes along the way to get there."

Love or hate her (or both), Chua's story is far more complicated and interesting than what you've heard to date.


Dawn said...

I was very glad to read that because I heard a review of the book on NPR and this background was missing there, too. It sounds like a more reasonable and more interesting book. I also can't imagine her frustration at seeing that essay go out like that. Then again it'll be good for sales!

Reena said...

It sounds like the media picked through what they wanted to paint the picture they felt would sell the most. I am disgusted-- I expect more from the WSJ.

Dee said...

The WSJ wants to sell papers, so their misrepresentation of the book isn't surprising.

That said, I think the Chinese model of mothering is, in general, horrifying. My son had a Chinese teacher a couple of years ago, and even though she spoke English it was very difficult for him to understand her. She was so mean and so bad about shaming my son and the other kids that I insisted he be taken out of her class. I later learned a lot of the parents pulled their kids out. She was not asked to return the next year.

I know that teacher viewed my son as inferior because he does not have a right hand, due to amputation when he was 5 years old [frostbite]. Asians generally view limb difference children with disdain and horror. I belong to a Yahoo group and 98% of the adopted children with limb differences are from China. Even if a baby is male, if he has so much as one finger missing due to a birth defect they are given up for adoption. Many babies are born with limb differences in China because, I am convinced, the pollution is so terrible.

Although I am sure there are Chinese parents who do not fit the stereotype, unfortunately I think a high premium is placed on perfection and conformity in China. Anyone ever done a study on how happy Chinese kids are, compared to America kids? How emotionally healthy they are? I'd like to see that.

Michele said...

Here's a response to the Chua article by a Chinese-American/Adoptive Mom :

Victoria said...

Here's another response to the article, beautifully written.

Dee (a different Dee) said...

Chua's characterization of the "Western ideal" of parenting is a total stereotype, of course. Does anyone think a 10-year-old should have unlimited choices about anything?! Well, whatever her protests, her book is selling really well (at least at Amazon). I imagine "best selling author" fits in nicely with her view of success.

Anonymous said...

Dee~~If Asians generally view limb difference children with disdain and horror, then why is that a man with no arms or legs is a major celebrity in Japan?

China does NOT equal Asia.

Anonymous said...

Angry Asian Man's update on this new information:

Anonymous said...

This should be an object lesson in how media manipulate, how bloggers manipulate, and how the anonymous internet community pounce and wail at every story. It's absurd. The media does it for profit, the bloggers do it for profit or for ego, the internet community is simply applying gossip, judgement, and drama via electronics.

Most of you pounced in the earlier blog post, on the basis of what others were claiming on the content of the book.

Reality check. If you want to actually understand another person and their views (whether you agree with them or not) 3rd party heresay is not the way to go about it.

Maybe read the book next time before pouncing and digging in claws. Certainly avoid judgment of culture and practice that you are not qualified to weigh judgement.

malinda said...

No, not an object lesson as you see it, Anon. NO ONE was commenting on the book, so saying you should read the book before commenting is silly. The ARTICLE was published under Chua's name, no contemporaneously published disclaimer from her. That people reacted negatively to the ARTICLE requires only reading the article.

She later disclaimed the article, I blogged that. People can take the disclaimer for what it is and the original article for what it is.