Light & Verity

The taming of the tiger mother

Gregory Nemec

Gregory Nemec

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The new year started with a bang for Amy Chua, a Yale law professor previously known for her books on international affairs. On January 8, the Wall Street Journal published her essay "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" (not her title, she says), about her draconian parenting style: no sleepovers, no TV, no grade less than an A, hours of music practice every day. Instantly, Chua was the talk of the Internet. Her methods were praised by a few but skewered by many more who saw her as a crazy control freak.

She says she wasn't prepared for the firestorm. The Journal piece was adapted from her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which she emphasizes "is not a parenting book at all." She intended it as a "quirky comic memoir" about how she tried to raise her two daughters the way her immigrant parents raised her, but got her comeuppance from a strong-willed second child—a denouement left out of the excerpt. She meant to come off like a caricature, she says. "I've always liked books with unreliable narrators. So I'm like a character in the book, and my two daughters are the protagonists."

Chua says the Yale community has been "incredibly supportive," as has her family, including husband Jed Rubenfeld, also a Law School professor. "I can't even look at the stuff on the Internet," she says. "It's so mean! But my girls find the few nice things and text them to me."

At any rate, a little online vilification hasn't been bad for sales: in mid-February her book was third on the New York Times bestseller list.  

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