More To Chua On
Amy Chua has got to be the most successful self-promoter since Glenn Beck emerged from the ass-cheeks of Zeus - or wherever it was he came from. It's somewhat interesting to wonder how she managed to push so many people's buttons. I think she manages to play on common fears - the fear of every parent that they aren't doing right by their kids and the fear that China is surpassing and threatening the US, for example. She also manages to make herself at once threatening and unlikeable - she's judgemental, anti-American, racist, hypercompetitive, and impossibly full of herself.
“There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests,” Amy Chua writes. She ought to know, because hers is the big one: “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a diabolically well-packaged, highly readable screed ostensibly about the art of obsessive parenting. In truth, Ms. Chua’s memoir is about one little narcissist’s book-length search for happiness. And for all its quotable outbursts from Mama Grisly (the nickname was inevitable), it will gratify the same people who made a hit out of the granola-hearted “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Maslin likes banging the narcissism gong, and it's a fairly plausible charge:
Wherever she is in this slickly well-shaped story, Ms. Chua never fails to make herself its center of attention. When her older daughter, Sophia, was a baby, “she basically slept, ate and watched me have writer’s block until she was a year old.” (The italics here are mine.) “Sophia,” she later explains, “you’re just like I was in my family.” When she pitches what’s already become her most notorious fit over the girls’ amateurishly made birthday cards, Ms. Chua declares, “I spend half my salary on stupid sticker and eraser party favors” for their birthdays, adding “I deserve better than this.” And when Jed fails to honor Ms. Chua’s birthday with reservations at a good enough restaurant, and the family ends up at a so-so one, he too is in hot water.
Chua also gets some space of her own for another blurb and excerpt in the NYT.
Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.
This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western overscheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.
The last paragraph perfectly illustrates her peculiarly narrow focus and obtuseness to intellectual generalization. I find the American sports parent a nearly exact analog to Chua Chinese mother. Does she understand the meaning of the word "analog?"