Mother Superior

Mother Superior: How Chinese is the “Chinese Mom”?   by Gish Jen

      from a book review from The New Republic, February 17, 2011

Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir about raising children “the Chinese way,” has provoked, well, a reaction. An excerpt in The Wall Street Journal received more than 7,000 online
comments; Facebook posts have reachedthe hundreds of thousands; and The New York Times alone ran five articles on the book in a single week, all thanks to onlyhalf-facetious passages like this: “[T]he 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.” As Chua recounts calling one daughter “garbage” when she failed to pass muster, as well as hauling the other daughter’s dollhouse to the car, threatening to donate it “piece by piece” to the Salvation Army if she didn’t master a certain song on the piano, many of the comments are naturally about parenting; and certainly the question of whether Chua’s methods amount to child abuse is a hot button. So, too, is the question of how much discipline is good for a child, especially since Chua has apparent results to show for her wicked ways: straight-A report cards and her older daughter’s piano debut at Carnegie Hall, made while she was in the eighth grade. Yet, for all the talk about self-esteem and mother love, a large part of the reaction is plain American insecurity. As Business Insider, an online magazine, proclaimed, “If the goal is efficiency, excellence, and success, it would seem that this Chinese mother, at least, has most American mothers beat. And it’s not...