I’ve had this conversation a dozen times the past week:
“Can you believe that Amy Chua?”
“That book is outrageous There’s no way I’m reading it!”
“Are you done with your copy? Can I borrow it?”
Really. For many of my Asian American friends, Amy Chua’s “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” essay in the Wall Street Journal set off a visceral reaction: crazy, unfounded, abusive, and racist are words that have been slung around in conversations and on the internet.
Yet, this vehement reaction to the article goes hand in hand with a non-stop soundtrack of opinions surrounding Amy Chua, Asian immigrant parents, elite academic institutions and our own childhoods. After a day or two of initial reactions, some Asian American bloggers were calling for people to move on. But we can’t. I admit, I have a hard time not ruminating over the whole phenomenon.
Why? Because there’s a whole generation of — highly successful — Asian Americans who have kept this bottled up for 30… 40 years. During my adolescence, I was fortunate enough to be part of a Taiwanese American youth group. At summer camps and Lunar New Year’s parties, we put on light-hearted skits about our parents’ mispronunciations, penny pinching habits, or comparisons to their friends’ kids. While a fun release valve for the pressure-cookers some of us faced at home, there were no solutions, aside from the camaraderie of friends and the advice, “That’s how your parents show that they love you”.
As second generation Asian Americans, and Generation Xers, we soldiered on into the good doctors, lawyers, engineers of the world (at least some of us). After all, what would Alex P. Keaton do?
But now Amy Chua goes and writes her memoir detailing the dinners she withholds and the toys she threatens to destroy, if her daughters do not practice their violin and piano. “Mmm hmm, the piano lessons!” educated Asian American women around the country are nodding in agreement. Don’t get me started on that!
And the other question, being whispered from Boston to Palo Alto: “Have you asked your mother what she thinks of all this?”
I, for one, have to admit that I haven’t broached that topic. Our conversations surrounding the “Joy Luck Club” are still smarting. But maybe, if anything, the conversations started by this whole issue will come around to some kind of fruitful discussion.
And just in case you haven’t read the latest round-up of articles:
Amy Chua’s daughter writes I Love My Mom (and I want to eat dinner tonight)
David Brooks says, Amy Chua is a Wimp. You want a real challenge? Send your teenager to a slumber party.
And to end on a light note: Tiger Mom Says Tumblr