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Chua is NOT Chinese! Read this if you didn't already know:


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Initial post: Jan 27, 2011 5:47:31 PM PST
The latest "it" book about China has arrived - and in typical corporate publisher fashion, the author is no more Chinese than Britney Spears! Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, was born and raised in Illinois and lived in Indiana and Connecticut. I can think of no less-Chinese states in America. Not to mention that she is married to a Jewish-caucasian. Chua's parents spent more time in the Philippines than in China, nor does Chua speak a lick of Mandarin! How is it, then, that Chua is an expert on anything Chinese when the only Chinese word she speaks is her own name? She is a Chinese AMERICAN claiming to know something about Mainland Chinese culture without ever having actually been there. Heaven forbid the US publishing industry promote a REAL Chinese author who actually knows what she is talking about when it comes to traditional Chinese values; no, they only feel safe promoting an Ivy League-fed pseudo-Chinese (Leslie Chang, anyone?). And I love all the boardroom-manufactured hype surrounding Tiger Mother: the executives at Penguin along with their pals at the Wall Street Journal all got together and planned out this brilliant marketing campaign strategy from start to finish; and of course, like clockwork, the sheep-like American consumer masses bought right into the faux "Controversy" and turned Tiger Mother into a best-seller. If you want to read about a REAL tiger mother, read "Harvard Girl Liu Yiting." Of course, it's only available in Chinese and not readily sold in America - and the executives at Penguin intend on keeping it that way.

Posted on Jan 27, 2011 6:08:47 PM PST
MFAP says:
Thank you for saying what needed to be said, and so eloquently.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2011 7:10:17 AM PST
Kellie Tudor says:
I agree with you 100%! This was a marketing ploy and it worked perfect! The funny thing is Ms. Chua's children are only teenagers so it isn't known if her parenting style was successful. The real work is still ahead. Let's see what kind of adults these young girls turn into and what their paenting style is going to be like.

Posted on Feb 2, 2011 9:17:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 2, 2011 10:01:25 PM PST
Reader says:
I'm very glad you posted here & started this discussion.

From what I've read, though I cannot speak regarding the fact checking performed by those sources, the author's father was born in the Philippines in the 1930s & lived there until he immigrated to the U.S. over half a century ago.

My understanding from the vague things I have read is that it sounds like her mother was also born in the Philippines. Is this true? I have seen her speak very little of her mother though her book is about what it is to be mothered by a "Chinese mother" & how she mothers as a "Chinese mother."

While I have seen statements that she is "ethnically Chinese," I have also seen commentary that within the Philippines there exists a cultural tendency to mention one's ethnic Chinese roots as a general term even if this means that one is not fully ethnically Chinese.

Is the author fully ethnically Chinese? I am wondering because while I certainly have not met every Chinese person who has lived, I have known a fair number of Chinese yet have not met a single Chinese person with the author's surname. I read somewhere that the author's surname is a translation of a Chinese surname, Tsai, with which I am familiar. How many generations back in her direct family line, i.e. her parents or her parents' parents, did her family come from China? I have not previously encountered a person who talks & writes so much about being Chinese & talks on behalf of the vast population of mothers born in China yet her surname & how I have heard it pronounced is very different from that with which I am familiar. While I wish to improve to better fluency in Mandarin, I have spoken enough Mandarin with native speakers to notice I have not heard Mandarin Chinese words pronounced with the same pronunciation as I hear her name pronounced. I truly am curious about what I have read briefly about a historical migration of immigrants, including the author's ancestors, who immigrated to the Philippines, speak a language seemingly common among those immigrants & bear names that are translations from Mandarin Chinese into such language. It is an interesting occurrence I am curious to know more about.

Regarding the author's humor, I have received many inside jokes over the years about what it is like to be Chinese, Asian, Chinese American &/or Asian American. They are funny because the voice, tone & insight feel very inside to what I am familiar with & the humor is spot on. I honestly was left very confused by this author's writing. In some ways, it feels like that of someone who is not entirely inside the culture she speaks of &/or is unsure of what culture she is speaking of. The humor from funny jokes I've received comes from the intimate familiarity with the culture & the subtle, nuanced grasp of the humorous tone with which to view it. It seems the author is not entirely sure of the culture she speaks of then tries to find a tone (of humor, she says) that is then off.

Also, since she talks about behavior (when speaking of Chinese mothering), behavior stems in large part from culture not biology. So if her family has not lived in China for possibly three generations (her generation, her parents' yet perhaps her grandparents first immigrated from China?), then why does she blanket her writing & speech with terms about Chinese behavior? For example, my mother, whom I hesitate to write about in connection with a book that I find stereotypes, largely recognizes that she has been influenced by both Chinese culture and U.S. culture though she is a 1st generation immigrant born in China who arrived in the U.S. following the birth & early childhood of her older children. My mother is the first to say that there are vast distinctions in the class, background, upbringing & lives of people in China she knows from having lived there. Though she has also shared very insightful perceptions of the culture as she sees it with me, she first clarifies that her view stems from her class, situation & family background. She has also told me stories of vastly different mothering techniques by mothers in China & mothers from China. I myself have seen various techniques by mothers from China. I cannot imagine my mother speaking on behalf of the vast population of mothers born in China, & I seem to recall her very careful hesitation to stereotype such an immense population.

Thanks again for the discussion.

Posted on Feb 6, 2011 9:00:55 AM PST
Y. Liu says:
This really just a book about an unusual parenting attidude for an "American" parent.
She has no Chinese education background, she married a Caucasian, her last name should be already changed, but she still use Chua as the last name in her book.
This really is just about marketing, not about the different between Chinese and West.

Posted on Feb 6, 2011 11:40:05 AM PST
I'm Chinese-American, raised by an immigrant from China (mom) and a 2nd generation Chinese-American (dad). And I experienced a lot of what the author describes, as did many of my Asian-American cohorts. My mom is DEFINITELY Chinese, born in China and an immigrant at age 24, and she did a lot of what Ms. Chua did. I play both the piano and violin, I have an M.D., and oh -- I also happen to be really happy with my life. While growing up, all my Chinese-American girlfriends had Tiger moms born in China. Those girls all grew up playing the piano and doing well in school.

So the fact you call Chua clearly "not Chinese" strikes me as weird. Whether she qualifies as Chinese or not in your mind actually doesn't matter; the moms from China that I knew did a lot of the same things Ms. Chua did.

Posted on Feb 6, 2011 12:21:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2011 1:08:59 PM PST
Reader says:
Many Chinese in China are impoverished & live in very poor conditions. Therefore, my understanding of the facts is that many children of mothers born in China do not play piano.

Regarding the subset of children in the U.S. whose mothers were born in China (if the book took this on as it subject this would already be a much smaller population & very different topic than mothers born in China), I know of some who do not play piano as well as some who did not do well in school.

The idea that all of them play piano &/or violin was passed around via e-mail as a stereotype & joke for us to laugh at ourselves, similar to how some comedians make fun of their own life & the stereotypes they face, like Chris Rock. When this e-mail was passed around, I found it funny because of the way it was written & it poked fun with a self-professed stereotype.

"ALL [your] Chinese-American girlfriends...grew up playing the piano and doing well in school" (emphasis added)?

It is interesting to hear another view. Your experience is different than mine.

Some I have met play other instruments, some do not play much music. Many play sports.

But, yes, some do not do well in school.

I have not met any children of mothers born in China who were not permitted to play &, as a result, didn't & couldn't play. (It is, by the way, called "playing" piano). While I have very gratefully gained insight from those who've share stories to clear up misconceptions following this book, I can't bring myself to share timeless stories about China in connection with discussion of this book.

But pianists play with other musicians. It is very rewarding &, yes, it can be "play." By the way, the vast majority of mothers born in China I've come across have not used the term "play date" with me (many speak Mandarin Chinese).

A book that tries to take play from children & therefore humanity while purporting it is quintessentially China's rich culture to do so is false & sad, I find.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2011 9:26:33 PM PST
Backbutton says:
That's because it is clearly all a marketing ploy. She has no real relation to Chinese. Filipinos are very Americanized to begin with. We should protest to Penguin for hoisting this sham.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2011 6:28:40 PM PST
Backbutton says:
If you look at her picture, she looks really Filipino, rather than "true blood" Chinese--a tinge of Spanish maybe. In a police line-up, she would not be picked to be Chinese from China, Taiwan or Hong Kong, but from Philipines or Malaysia, I would think.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2011 6:29:36 PM PST
Backbutton says:
to such extremes?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2011 9:03:22 AM PST
JHH says:
"Filipinos are very Americanized to begin with. "

Whoa! What a generalization!! What does that even mean? That they can pick up English without an accent?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2011 9:05:08 AM PST
JHH says:
Backbutton, you topped yourself again..

"If you look at her picture, she looks really Filipino, rather than "true blood" Chinese--a tinge of Spanish maybe."

Is it because Amy Chua's eyes are bigger than a typical Chinese person's eyes?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2011 1:18:47 PM PST
Backbutton says:
JHH,

My comment about "Filipinos are very Americanized to begin with" is a generalization, but based upon facts.

Your comment "Whoa! What a generalization!! What does that even mean? That they can pick up English without an accent?" is amusing; shows your lack of knowledge of history, and perhaps a cultural slur.

In case you shut-eyed during history class, here is an excerpt on Philippines history from Wikipedia:

"The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of an era of Spanish interest and eventual dominance. Manila emerged as the Asian hub of the Manila-Acapulco galleon fleet. Missionary work led to widespread Christianity. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the short-lived Philippine Revolution, the Spanish-American War, and the Philippine-American War. In the aftermath, the United States replaced Spain as the dominant power. Aside from the period of Japanese occupation, the United States retained sovereignty over the islands until the end of World War II when the Philippines gained independence. The United States bequeathed to the Philippines the English language and a stronger affinity for Western culture."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2011 1:43:28 PM PST
Backbutton says:
JHH,

Yes, I topped myself again, as you said. Must be the rigorous training from my Tiger Mother.

My Comment: "If you look at her picture, she looks really Filipino, rather than "true blood" Chinese--a tinge of Spanish maybe." Your Comment: Is it because Amy Chua's eyes are bigger than a typical Chinese person's eyes?

Ha, Ha! Your comment sounds so racist, ignorant and stereotypical. It has nothing to do with her eyes, but the look. Besides, her eyes are a bit small even by "Chinese" standards, ha, ha! Did you know that eyes come in different shapes and sizes, even in the same ethnicity?

Again the history lesson, seems worth repeating--some Filipinos have some mixed blood in their ancestry, so they look a tinge Spanish or of other mixed ethnicity, not purely oriental.

Again from Wikipedia:

"Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. In prehistoric times, Negritos were some of the archipelago's earliest inhabitants. They were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples who brought with them influences from Malay, Hindu, and Islamic cultures. Trade introduced Chinese cultural influences."

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2011 7:30:33 AM PST
You are right. Amy Chua is a Chinese-American and probably does not know much of China, its people, its culture or its history but I do.

In fact, the Chinese would not consider her Chinese either and she would probably be treated rudely in China if she spent much time there since she doesn't have a foreign face and does not speak Mandarin fluently. I know one Chinese-American (third generation) that visited China and says he will never return because he was treated so poorly for having a Chinese face but an American character. What a foreign face can get away with in China a Chinese face usually cannot.

In addition, Chua did something unChinese. She wrote about the White Elephant in the room (about what goes on behind the closed doors), which most Chinese would never do.

However, the Chinese influence shows. Her father was born in the Philippines but his parents emigrated from China and brought their values with them. Of all the ethnic and racial groups in the world, the Chinese hold onto their values and culture more than most-sometimes generations after arriving.

Chua's mother was born and raised in China and met the father while he was attending a university in the United States so that means Chua's mother was a Chinese mother and Chinese mothers are responsible for the child's education. Most Chinese mothers also identify with who they are through their children. If the child were a failure, the mother would see herself as a failure. The higher status of the Chinese mother or family, the higher the expectations may be for the child to measure up and not cause the family or mother to lose face.

This explains why some Chinese-American parents from rural China where most of the peasants live do not have the same high expectations as a parent from a middle class or upper-middle class family from Shanghai might have. But do not expect even a Chinese parent from rural China to become a soft, self-esteem driven American parent.

Many of Chua's parenting methods were learned by the way her parents raised her. Since Chua is a Yale Professor with two previous academic books (one was a New York Times Bestseller), this raises the bar for Chua as a mother influenced by Chinese culture since her mother and father were Chinese.

If Chua had been raised in China, she probably wouldn't have written the book but American culture influenced her to write the book since in America there are few secretes and the tell all book is common, which explains why so many well known Americans write such revealing and often disturbing memoirs.

In addition, The Philippines is more of an Asian culture than a Western one and many Filipino parents do not practice the soft, self-esteem mania approach to parenting.

Unlike many that read her memoir, I understood why she was this type of parent. You see, I'm married to a real Chinese woman that was born in Shanghai in the 1950s and didn't arrive in the United States until the 1980s. I saw firsthand and supported her method of parenting and although my wife was not as extreme as Chua, she was a Tiger Mother and still is.

Since I married into a Chinese family in 1999, I've been to China many times and traveled extensively throughout the country. I've studied Chinese culture and written of it in my Blog at [iLook China dot net] and in my first two historical fiction novels. I've met many Chinese parents (and they were all born in China as my wife was) in the US and in China. Every one of those Chinese parents is a Tiger Parent and a few are as intense as Amy Chua is and some less so.

I also taught in a multi-ethnic high school in Southern California for thirty years and had the "privilege" to teach Asian students from the Philippians (that had immigrant parents), Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, etc. and in every case the parents were Tiger Parents to one degree or another and the students were among the best and most polite students I worked with almost always earning high GPAs.

Posted on Mar 3, 2011 3:02:03 PM PST
Backbutton says:
Hey Lloyd,

You have good perspective and personal experience.

I don't think the uproar is so much about AC exposing the white elephant as much as the attribution of her own personal and very extreme methods as being stereotypically Chinese--Chinese parents put high value and emphasis upon education, and child upbringing --but what AC did/does is to an extreme and bordering on abuse--and she rationalized and purported that as stereotypical Chinese--ergo the uproar, objection and alarm, since some readers and ignoramuses may view what she purports as stereotypical of all Chinese mothers--sort of like racial profiling--know what I mean?

Mayor Blumberg just had to apologize for his comments about Irish. You know the examples.

If AC had simply stated and made it abundantly clear that what she advocated was her own individual way, and that she was influenced by the mothering practices of her mother, who has a Chinese ethnic background, there would be no uproar--the objection is that it was sensationlized and purported to be stereotypical of all Chinese mothering--the title included "Tiger Mother" as a hook to attract attention, and purport to represent an entire culture and allude to a stereotype. That was what's wrong-minded, but the marketing premise for the book.

I, for one, would not write such a revealing book about something so personal for public consumption, simply from consideration of the potential impact on my children--personal is personal. But in a country where Clinton & Clinton would air their laundry in public and write and shamelessly sign books, and revel in their indiscretions and profit from them, what can one say?

Americans are thick-skinned and unabashed opportunists, with scant regard for personal dignity. In Asia, many of such notorious figures will commit suicide or retire from public exposure, but in the good old USA, write a book, go on TV and promote about your crime, passion, faux pas and make some money. I am waiting for Bernie Madoff and Eliot Spitzer's books, amongst others.

In another country, Hillary would not fare well. Reagen after retirement took money from the Japanese for speaking engagement--imagine what the Japanese were thinking--we lost WWII to the Americans, but we can buy a US President with a little spare change--that must have been very satisfying. Of all the ex-presidents, Carter is the only one who is dignified and doing something respectable. Nixon's failing is that he got caught.

This is the American way, it seems. Create sensation and profit from it, shamelessly.

Posted on Mar 3, 2011 3:13:25 PM PST
Mandy Wu says:
Yes, shamelessly, that't it. She has even more advantages to play both American and Chinese card. She can play the Chinese card Shamelessly because she is American. WOW. Powerful woman.

Posted on Mar 3, 2011 3:58:53 PM PST
Backbutton says:
This is called how to profit from the system, at the expense of others.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 5:27:45 PM PST
JHH says:
OK, if you put some perspective on where you're coming from (facts) then I can somewhat understand your comment. Do you know how many outright racial slurs there are on these boards regarding Chinese and Asians? I apologize if I thought you were one of those posters. But to clear things up, I was NOT giving a slur myself. I am Asian myself and have lots of Philipino friends. However, they seem to be as strict as my parents.

The thing is, if you're okay with generalizing Philipinos as being "Americanized", why are you not okay with Chua generalizing her parenting as "Chinese"? She very clearly explains in the book how she generalizes this "Chinese parenting" very well.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 5:33:53 PM PST
JHH says:
You obviously missed MY irony in my comment to yours. Like what Amy Chua did in her book, I overgeneralized to make a point. And again, I am Asian and I know our eyes come in different shapes and sizes. Our eyes even comes in different colors - my mother's eyes are actually very light brown (we think probably due to mixing in the colonial times).

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 5:47:52 PM PST
Backbutton says:
I am not generalizing Filipinos as Americans, only pointing to the the fact that the Philipines has a historically American cultural influence. What is not factual about that???

Your comment about the eyes and speaking English without an accent--does that not verge on racial slurring and stereotyping?

Should not overgeneralize to make a point, but qualify points. So you admit AC overgeneralized--that is the issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 6:02:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2011 6:15:28 PM PST
Mandy Wu says:
Actually, americanized is not generalizing, I think. It's a verb and many countries are Americanized and as an immigrant, I am very Americanized. we all know what the turn "Americanized" should mean, right? No one person can define what Americanized mean. The issue here is that many people with Chinese ethnicity are not satisfied with the way the author define "Chinese mother".

And even more disturbingly, she is not Chinese, and that's why this discussion topic is here!

Posted on Mar 4, 2011 6:05:29 PM PST
Backbutton says:
JHH,

Face it, most people are quick to stereotype, myself included--a result of ignorance, misunderstanding, lack of etiquette and inconsideration of the targets feelings--most often inadvertent, and not deliberate, and not in a calculated manner. Unfortunate, but part of life. But to deliberately do so, in a calculated manner, is wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 6:08:27 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 4, 2011 6:15:46 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2011 6:11:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2011 6:13:55 PM PST
Mandy Wu says:
Do you mean the author deliberately do so in a calculated manner?
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Initial post:  Jan 27, 2011
Latest post:  Mar 9, 2012

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