In case you’ve been visiting Mars for the past month or so, Penguin Press has just published a parenting book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, written by a Chinese American professor at Yale Law School.
Anyone in the ever-shrinking world of publishing will tell you that the key to making money is to publish “water cooler” books — books that people can’t wait to talk about at break time.
Well, Professor Chua, mission accomplished!
To be honest, I haven’t read the book, nor do I plan to. I’ve read bits and pieces in the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, but I’ll be the first to admit that my opinion is based on next to nothing. (Not that I’ve ever let that stand in my way…)
Here’s my Cliff Notes version of what I gather Professor Chua is saying:
Hey, all you lazy and overindulgent non-Asian parents out there! Look at me! I’m Chinese, and I’m a professor at Yale Law School! I’ve got two kids, and they’re awesomely successful. They get all A’s in school, and they play the piano really, really well! And what’s more, they’re both unbelievably well-behaved!
Why is my life so great? It’s because I was raised by “traditional” (i.e., batshit crazy disciplinarian) Chinese parents! How did I raise such great kids? You guessed it — by being a “traditional” Chinese parent!
But wait, there’s more!
Maybe it’s too late for you — but not for your kids!
You too can raise awesome children by becoming a “traditional” Chinese parent. For the low, low price of $25.95 (marked down to $14.27 on amazon.com), you can buy your own copy of my book and learn how to browbeat (I mean, motivate) your children to excellence!
Lord knows Professor Chua has received enough hate mail (including some death threats), so I’m going to cut her some slack. I read in an interview that she intended the book to be tongue-in-cheek — kind of a rueful and humorously exaggerated look back at how easily her “traditional” parenting techniques were thwarted by her children.
Anyway, what bugs me personally about the book is that it cashes in big time on Yellow Peril, White Fright, and the stereotyped characterizations of Asian children as overachieving automatons and Asian parents as goal-obsessed monsters.
Here’s a thought experiment: Would this book have gotten anywhere near the same traction if the ethnicity of the author had been concealed?
I guess you know my answer.