Grace Hwang Lynch

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Grace Hwang Lynch

Grace Hwang Lynch
Silicon Valley, California,
December 31
I'm a former television news reporter. Currently a communications consultant, freelance writer, and mother of two. I write about raising a multicultural family at HapaMama, and I'm also the News & Politics Editor at BlogHer. My work has been published in several magazines and newspapers, as well as in the anthologies "Lavaderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word" and "Mamas and Papas:On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting" by City Works Press. Follow me on Twitter: @HapaMamaGrace


JANUARY 11, 2011 3:02PM

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - A Publicity Flop?

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The book is scheduled to be released today (January 11), but Yale Law professor Amy Chua's  new memoir on parenting, "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," has already created a stir based on her excerpt titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"  published in the Wall Street Journal. In what at first, appeared to be a brilliant stroke of marketing, the amount of pre-release publicity for this title rivals that received last summer by Jonathan Franzen's " Freedom".

The Wall Street Journal article has been posted on Facebook over 140,000 times and has been emailed countless more times by curious cousins and well-meaning aunties around the globe. At first, the commentors were impressed with Chua's methods of strict parenting practiced by her own Chinese immigrant parents, who raised three Ivy League educated daughters. The fourth daughter has Down's symdrome and "holds two International Special Olympics gold medals in swimming."1

"Maybe I should be more Chinese?" one Asian American doctor and father of two young children muses.

"Finally, a Chinese mother defending the way she parents!" another Chinese woman exclaims.

Then the concerns of racism started up, painting Chua as a sort of this Dragon Lady / Uncle Tom:

"I bet her kids hate her."

"She fulfills every stereotype that non-Chinese have about us."

"I can only hope she meant this as tongue-in-cheek."

Several bloggers at Hyphen and Cal State Fullerton  stop just short of blaming Chua for alarmingly high rates of suicide among Asian American youth.

Today, some are backtracking, calling the essay a "satire".  

And Chua herself wrote this brief response to an article on Quora:

Dear Christine:  Thank you for taking the time to write me, and I'm so sorry about your sister.  I did not choose the title of the WSJ excerpt, and I don't believe that there is only one good way of raising children.  The actual book is more nuanced, and much of it is aboutmy decision to retreat from the "strict Chinese immigrant" model.
Best of luck to you,
Amy Chua

All this, before the book even hits shelves. Several local bookstores I checked in the Silicon Valley, with its high population of Asian Americans,  haven't even received the title yet  and have only ordered small numbers of "Tiger Mother". 

It's too bad, because I had been looking forward to reading the book before making a full review of Chua's assertions. But by then  is anyone going to care about the actual book?

 1. "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," by Amy Chua, Terry Hong, SF Chronicle, January 8, 2011

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My boyfriend just told me about this - they're talking about it in France and saying it may be a satire. I thought it was. You're right - it would be very good indeed to read the whole book. If you read it, I hope you'll let us know what you think.
I will. I would love to read your review based on the entire book. There seems to be a pattern this week of Americans jumping the gun based on minimal information.

The temptation in the "thought" field is to jump in with your two cents as soon as an incendiary topic comes up. While I don't think the means Chua writes about in the WSJ are justified, I do think there is a valid argument that America could benefit from adopting some so-called Asian values. Chua will make money off this book, and she has created a name for herself... but I don't think it's contributing to meaningful discussion.
i actually knew a family that came to canada after Tiananmen...they had 1 daughter who had adjusted, over several years, to life first in Boston and then in Montreal. within a year or so of arriving, she was pulling 80s & 90s (even in french class; it was an english school). her father asked me how come there were students in her class who had been studying french their entire lives and were only pulling 60s? i told him he had a good point.

the parents made this girl study in a civic library all summer long. eventually, she had a psychotic-type episode...

i think this story has already been covered by Amy Tan. It was called "The Joy Luck Club."
I saw this woman interviewed on a show this morning~ My first thought was that I would not want to be her child. But... her girls seems well adjusted (as far as a two minute interview can show) and very high achievers. I bristled at her idea that an A- is not good enough. But, I'd like to read the book and I'd love to hear your opinion after you read it.~r
My sisters, mom and I have been e-mailing each other back and forth about this the last couple of days. Mom, of course, is old school and thinks Chua's article was right on the money. My sisters with kids, however, are outraged by it. As one of them noted, "how can one defend Ms. Chua's parenting skills as she's calling her kids "garbage", "lazy", "pathetic" etc. etc. when poor Alec Baldwin has become the whipping boy for bad parenting by using pretty much the same language with his kid?"
Beverly - Good point, it's playing on old daguerrotypes the general public is familiar enough with that it will sell. Then again, there is a grain of truth in stereotypes.

Joan- what network was that on? I'd love to see the clip.

Felicia- I haven't talked with my mother about this, but I can imagine her saying the same thing. She watched the Joy Luck Club, and remarked about how the daughters all gave their mothers such a hard time. Again, like I said above, there is a grain of truth in stereotypes, and I do think that despite its flaws, there is some value to the "Chinese" way of parenting - in its spirit, not in the particular way Chua enacts it.
Thank you for posting...I will have to read...I do have one friend who is Chinese and a super mama...but the others....are all more like I will try not to be intimidated...Hmmmm
Grace, thank you for highlighting the reactions and Ms Chua's response. I do indeed believe that her book will be more nuanced and unfortunately the WSJ article had cast it in a negative light.
It does make you wonder who came up with the incendiary subtitle, and WHY everyone jumps on a punch-wagon whenever the word "mother" is involved. I still want to read the entire book. I like reading about different cultures and how they (mothers and fathers) parent. It's always enlightening.
Grace, it was on the Today Show. (I think this was the clip)
I just watched the clip again~ the need for perfection is what disturbs me more than anything. What is that need to be #1? Why did her father feel "disgraced" because she came in 2nd at an awards ceremony? Very interesting stuff, but hits me in a place where I need to question this quest for perfection.
I just watched the clip again~ the need for perfection is what disturbs me more than anything. What is that need to be #1? Why did her father feel "disgraced" because she came in 2nd at an awards ceremony? Very interesting stuff, but hits me in a place where I need to question this quest for perfection.
Thanks for the link. I'll have to brace myself to watch it. The whole subject is a little traumatizing to me.

If you do read the book, keep in mind that while some of the aspects of her parenting style are typical of Chinese mothers, others are beyond what most Chinese immigrants would consider normal or good. It reminds me of an abused child growing up and abusing her own children.

As I'm reading the book, I find the anecdotes used in WSJ are scattered throughout the chapters- the article was definitely a "greatest hits" of her most incendiary passages.
I just watched the clip. Either she is delusional about the effects this kind of parenting has on children... or she is just willing to put a smiley face on it to make a name (and money) for herself.
Very interesting, Grace. I just read the WSJ article and she does not seem to be doing herself any favors (except that of publicity at any cost) by having excerpted such extreme and inflammatory passages. Actually, she probably will profit a lot from having done that. That said, I recognize a lot of what I would consider her extreme and stereotypical examples of "Asian" parenting-- I think all of us Asian Americans do, whether or not we experienced that method to the same extremes at home. Do these methods work? Probably, if the kids make it (emotionally) past childhood.
children are *not* a means for a parent to satisfy their own ego-cravings. its a fine line sometimes, but other times, its crystal clear. a very good book to study along with this would be "in sheeps clothing. understanding and dealing with manipulative people" by george simon. I would also recommend "free range children" another controversial book on the same subj.
from the article
"By contrast, I don't think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. "

actually an amazing different model is that of the american native indians who do not believe we inherit the world from our parents, but borrow it from our children.....
You make an interesting point here, Grace. I wish more people in this country were able to avoid jumping to conclusions and forming opinions without actually taking the time to read and think.
from the article
"Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic."
its clear the *mother* is the one working herself into a frenzy, here huh. her insults and threats to her own daughter constitute verbal abuse. she should be ashamed and seek professional counseling. stern warnings are one thing, but escalating threats are another. threats that dont match the crime are inappropriate. no lunch or dinner for failing to master a difficult piece? no birthday presents? huh??? were these true threats or empty threats? if they were true, that is near child abuse, extended withholding of meals. if they were empty threats, then the mother has symptoms characteristic of a mild psychological disorder called "covert aggression"..... studied by george simon.... its amazing such a well educated woman, a PhD could have such troglodyte attitudes about parenting.... and by the way, 2 minute videos of her daughters doing cameos do *not* measure their longterm mental/psychological health.... which I would suggest is in jeopardy from such styles of parenting..... there are studies to back this up.....
the mother seems to exhibit some symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder ... believing that others are an extension of oneself, having no empathy for them, etcetera. in a particularly sensitive/damaging case, the "others" are ones own children.....
here is one of the key symptoms of BPM, borderline personality disorder -- "While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). "
this is almost identical to what the mother does by her own self-admission. if the daughter does the difficult piece, the daughter is upheld as sterling, worthy of admiration, but if she doesnt want to do it, she is excoriated.
vzn, I agree that there is some extreme narcissism at work here. And the excerpts, whether chosen by WSJ editors or by Chua herself portray harsh parenting that borders on abuse. However, I am halfway through the book, and so far it does look to be pointing toward some moment of realization and possibly redemption at the end, although on the Today show, she says in hindsight she would do things the same way with "slight modifications".

I am willing to give the book a shot, because as someone who was brought up with some similarities to this style, I do appreciate some benefits of stricter parenting, although unlike Chua, my conscience is constantly struggling with how to incorporate the good of the Asian parenting model with the benefits of the American style of freedom and individuality. More on that later.
slight correction on my part. I edited out the part where the daughter throws a tantrum after failing to perform the difficult piano solo. this is matched by the mothers escalating threats and basically, a counter-tantrum. this is just "fighting fire with fire" which I regard as A Bad Thing. but, its amazing that in our culture, grown adults do indeed regularly throw what amount to tantrums. its a national disgrace that its so widespread. so hopefully Chua will be a negative role model & stimulate some discussions on the subj.
Grace, I'm looking forward to your full review of the book!