Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Publicity Coup or Fail?

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


  1. Woof and Bark says

    Just FYI – Chua’s parents are actually from the Phillipines – a Chinese minority that lives there. Her previous book was about this society, among other things. So saying she is typical “Chinese” is kind of strange.

  2. grace says

    Good point, Woof. Although from what I understand, the ethnic Chinese in the Phillippines hold on to their ethnic identity pretty strongly. She is not typical, to say the least.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *