"Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" WSJ piece. ENTJ is an Asian-American woman in the finance industry, with her very own Chinese mother. ENTJ is passionate about educational policy, film, museums of all kinds, and fashion.
You have to think that Amy Chua won in all of this. Her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is now the #5 book on Amazon. She’s won the kind of instant notoriety that is typically reserved for cast members of Jersey Shore. The original Wall Street Journal article about her book has been the most-read article on the site for more than a week, and has generated more than 6,000 comments, split between admirers of the Asian-American community’s disproportional representation in the Ivy League and those citing the Asian-American community’s disproportional representation in national depression and suicide statistics.
But for me, the most interesting reaction has been among those of Asian-American descent themselves. I am Chinese-American, and was tempted to create a filter in my Gmail account so I wouldn’t have to sort through all the times that people emailed the article to me. Among the first people to email me the article was my younger sister, who sent it to me and my parents, with no comment besides, “I’m not sure how I feel about this.” My parents did not have the same reaction. Apparently, a mailing list of Asian parents in our town had been debating the article since it first appeared. From the sampling of emails that my parents forwarded on, the uniform reaction of the parents was a disavowal of Chua’s techniques; one after another wrote that “If this is what a Chinese parent is, then I am a Western parent!”
Why then, did the children of the parents on the list have a more conflicted reaction to the article? I do not know any member of my generation who read the article and did not feel a shiver of recognition. My mother let me go to the bathroom during my marathon piano practice sessions, but the threats coercing me into enduring three hours in front of an instrument I didn’t care very much about were very real. During school vacations, my parents would unplug our television and lock up the power cord so that I would read and practice algebra instead (I was 10). What happened when I got a B on a paper or if I didn’t excel at one of my extracurricular activities? I’d rather not go into it here.
In the broadest definition of the word, my parents’ approach was a success. My little sister and I attended the same Ivy League school. She is on the road to becoming a doctor, and I am pursuing a career that allows me to pay for a substantial part of her education.
has appeared on the internet, a young Asian-American achieved all of those "right" things, only to decide she did not want them--she suffered from depression for two years before taking her own life).
I recognize that these existential crises are not exclusive to Asian-American youth, but during my time in college, when I was struck with envy by my peers who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and had a single-minded determination to achieve it, I soon noticed that none of them were Asian. To this day, I have trouble spending any time on activities at which I do not excel. After years of incredible pressure by her Chinese mom to get into a top college, a high school classmate of mine totally imploded after arriving there. She had no idea what was next, didn’t know how to determine her future path, and spent her four years wandering about the school binge drinking. When I arrived at college, I was shocked to realize that most of my classmates willingly spoke to their parents every day. I only called my parents when something was wrong, and if my phone rings and it says “Mom” my first assumption is that she has a friend whose kid needs help with some admissions essays.
So for all the debate and discussion that has emerged as a result of Amy Chua, the two groups that have not been talking to each other at all are the parents and children of the Asian-American tradition. I believe that Chua’s greatest disservice to the Asian-American community was not throwing back the curtain on what causes us to be perceived as the “model minority,” but rather by exaggerating her approach so much that other Asian-American parents do not see the parallels between her methods and theirs. By focusing on her, we are ignoring parents who have less extreme methods but are causing damage nonetheless. Perhaps the greatest condemnation of traditional Asian-American parenting is that I do not have enough of an emotional connection to my parents to point out to them that what they’ve done is more similar to Chua’s approach than not. I hope that someday a backlash will happen, when all of us Asian doctors and lawyers and other “successes” tell our parents that even though our family homes have walls filled with trophies and certificates and medals, we feel empty inside.