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The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America Paperback – January 27, 2015
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Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed):
“In their provocative new book, Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) and Rubenfeld (The Interpretation of Murder)—Yale Law professors and spouses—show why certain groups in the U.S. perform better than others. According to the authors, three traits breed success: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. Only when this ‘Triple Package’ comes together does it ‘generate drive, grit, and systematic disproportionate group success.’ Supported by statistics and original research….This comprehensive, lucid sociological study balances its findings with a probing look at the downsides of the triple package—the burden of carrying a family’s expectations, and deep insecurities that come at a psychological price.”
“Husband and wife professors at Yale Law School explore why some cultural groups in the United States are generally more successful than others. Chua and Rubenfeld argue that each of these groups is endowed with a “triple package” of values that together make for a potent engine driving members to high rates of success….[and] that the U.S. was originally a triple-package nation. However, while Americans still view their country as exceptional, in the last 30 years, the other two parts of the package have gone out the window, replaced by a popular culture that values egalitarianism, self-esteem and instant gratification, creating a vacuum for more motivated groups to fill. On a highly touchy subject, the authors tread carefully, backing their assertions with copious notes. Though coolly and cogently argued, this book is bound to be the spark for many potentially heated discussions.”
National Review Online:
“Thinkers like Chua and Rubenfeld do us a service by reaching beyond the limits of what we can quantify.”
J.D. Vance, National Review Online:
“Their book is a sometimes funny, sometimes academic, and always interesting study of the cultural traits that make some groups outperform others in America. . . . the book asks a very important question: why are some of us doing so much better (or worse) than others? . . . I’m not sure that Chua and Rubenfeld have all the right answers. But I do know that by focusing on people—and the cultures that support and affect them—they’re asking the right questions. That’s more than I can say for most of the social policy experts occupying the airwaves today.”
Logan Beirne, FoxNews.com:
“Filled with surprising statistics and sociological research. . . .From the nation’s start, Washington and the Founders believed that hard work and sacrifice meant success for the future. This was the start of the American dream. ‘Triple Package’ contends that success is driven not by inborn biology, but is instead propelled by qualities that can be cultivated by all Americans. The book serves as an opportunity to discuss what has helped drive America’s triumphs in the past – and how we might harness this knowledge for our future.”
“The book meticulously documents that a variety of subgroups—Chinese, Mormons, Jews, Iranians, Indians, and Nigerians, among others—are higher-achieving than the average American; its 182 pages of text come with more than 100 pages of supporting notes. In analyzing how these groups, all of which identify as outsiders in some way, have done so well, the authors suggest that all Americans might profit from emulating these ‘model minorities.’”
David B. Green, Haaretz (Israel):
“Their book is not racist. For one thing, they are drawing a correlation between success and certain psychological attitudes, not congenital characteristics. They also go out of their way to say that the Triple Package, or the material success it can help people attain, is no guarantee of happiness, and they give plenty of examples of the psychological damage it can do. Even more significantly, there’s no doubt that attitudes – and performance – can and do change over time. . . .As a reader, I enjoyed the extensively sourced statistics and anecdotes that provide the basis for Chua and Rubenfeld’s argument, and was not especially troubled by the fact that “The Triple Package” is not an academic book. For me, its main value is found in the final chapter, in which the authors examine where America has gone wrong.”
Business Traveller (UK):
“The titles of these forces explain what they are clearly enough, although the detail is intriguing. As you'd expect, it's the individuals who have emerged from these groups that provide the best stories, however. . . .Interestingly, the authors are nuanced on what constitutes "success" and point out that there is a dark underside to the ‘advantages’ that those in these groups ‘enjoy’. . . .It's hard to argue with the quantative and qualitative data amassed here… By and large, successful people are very ambitious, and don't mind you knowing the fact (they also often invite you to celebrate their success). The authors are very good in their descriptions of this sort of ego. It is also an enjoyable read, and one which really should not be criticised for the wrong reasons. I think many will nod in agreement. . . .a dose of common sense, rather like Amy Chua's previous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
Kavaree Bamzai, India Today:
“[the book] is implicitly critical of America's instant gratification disorder, and highlights the death of upward mobility among Americans. . . . The Triple Package is both a self-affirming anthem for those who need it as well as an anthropological exercise to understand what is going wrong with post-millenial America.”
Will Pavia, The Times (UK):
“The Triple Package is backed up with reams of research and qualifications. They tiptoe mirthlessly over cultural egg shells yet still manage to stir up controversy."
Katie Roiphe, Financial Times (UK):
“Chua and Rubenfeld’s explosive new meditation on success, The Triple Package, has already begun to enrage people, even those who, by their own admission, haven’t read it but have simply heard about how shocking it is.”
The Independent (UK):
“The book is not racist – it is well-written; seductive.”
Matthew Syed, The Times (UK), Book of the Week:
“One of the most controversial books of recent years ... the authors are to be commended for dealing with a controversial subject, and for revealing some deep truths. It deserves a wide audience.”
Emma Brockes, The Guardian (UK):
“A lot to find interesting ... They draw on eye-opening studies of the influence of stereotypes and expectations on various ethnic and cultural groups ... The authors’ willingness to pursue an intellectual inquiry that others wouldn’t is bracing.”
Jenni Russell, Sunday Times (UK):
“Provocative ... If you care at all about the social pressures underpinning success and failure, or relish fresh perspectives on how societies really work, you will want to read this.”
Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph (UK):
“The authors have already been accused of racism, mostly by people who haven’t read the book ... Powerful, passionate and very entertaining.”
About the Author
Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld are professors at Yale Law School. Chua, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which unleashed a firestorm debate about the cultural value of self-discipline, as well as the bestselling World on Fire. Rubenfeld examined the political dangers of “living in the moment” in Freedom and Time; he is also the author of the international bestseller The Interpretation of Murder.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is controversial, but she makes a pretty convincing, if simplistic argument - people that succeed are those who are confident enough to have an inherent sense that they can accomplish something, are introspective enough to have a realistic view of their flaws and strengths, and are tenacious and focused enough to see their goals through to completion; furthermore, they are able to pursue hard work with the promise of delayed reward without being distracted by immediate gratification. That much I can agree with. What I don't necessarily agree with is that some cultures 'have it' and others don't. What I think is true is the emphasis on family environment in terms of later success - some families live by the 'triple package' premise and others, less so, and while it may be more common in certain cultures, it certainly isn't exclusive to them.
I also agree with her acknowledgement that this "triple package" doesn't come without adverse side effects. Full disclosure - I grew up in a half-Asian (though not Chinese or Indian, the two Asian subgroups she emphasizes in the book) family and had a sort of watered-down "tiger childhood". I grew up playing Chopin and Bach on the piano for hours on end, being expected to succeed on all forms of standardized tests, and facing the comparisons to parents' friend's children when I didn't live up to expectations. Socializing on weekends was the exception, not a rule growing up, and - like Chua states - most weekends were spent on extracurricular pursuits. Some kids really do thrive on this, and I was probably one of them - I naturally had an interest in science, truly dreamed of being a 'research scientist' since I was 8, and ultimately ended up graduating from medical school and ending up in a research-oriented specialty. But others do not - the 'triple package' by design emphasizes conventional success (as Chua notes, often in career paths which are well-established such as medicine and law), and children whose interests and skills fall outside of the culturally accepted norm - i.e.., arts and humanities in particular - often end up feeling stifled and lost, at least amongst my friends with similar childhood experiences.
Chua's book really lays out the facts - it argues both the pros and cons of this 'triple package' culture, and though it emphasizes the successes of those who follow it, it doesn't shy away from discussion of the perils of aggressively overemphasizing achievement, and ultimately you can draw the conclusions for yourself. Would you raise your kids with these values? My personal opinion is that in moderation each of these traits is probably beneficial. Emphasizing hard work and impulse control is never a bad thing, but to take it to the extreme that the "Tiger Mother" memoir entails is too much.
But beyond personal affinity, an objective citizen cannot help but notice the data on certain population groups achieving above-average economic success in the face of daunting obstacles, including minority status and language differences, while other groups stagnate at and below the average. I admire the courage of the authors to discuss these inconvenient truths openly even though they clash with political correctness. I found many sections of the book eye-opening. I reject the slur that some left-wing reactionaries have flung at the book, that it is racist. Nothing in here treats persons of color differently than the white majority. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything in this book that treats the majority demographic group in the US favorably at all. Only Mormons and Jews as subsets of the white majority will find their values reinforced.
The book is very, very easy to read. My only criticism of the book is that certain sections were a little too anecdote-driven. Where they had data to back up their arguments, those chapters were fantastic. I urge all persons considering the book to read it.