Friday, January 13th was not an “unlucky” day for the Tiger Mother. But Amy Chua admitted, “It’s been a tough year.”
The controversy around Chua’s memoir, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” pushed her to The New York Times bestseller status. Chua was at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park to sign copies of her paperback edition. More than 100 people came to listen to the infamous mom’s firestorm year.
“I was asked to defend a book I didn’t write. It was difficult to do interviews.”
Last January the Wall Street Journal published an excerpt titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” It talked about what Chua would never allow her daughters Sophia and Louisa or “Lulu” to do. Here are a few examples:
- attend a sleepovers
- have a play date
- be in a school play
- choose their own extracurricular activities
Chua still can’t shake the WSJ headline that generated 500,000 hits within hours and painted her as a bad mother.
“That was the most painful thing,” said Chua, who felt misunderstood by people who just read the excerpt and never read the book.
She reminded the audience the book was never designed to be a how to parenting guide, but a memoir making fun of herself and the strict-parenting approach of her immigrant parents.
Chua went on to tell the crowd the tongue-and-cheek book is being marketed differently in China with the title being translated as “Parenting by a Yale Professor: How-to Raise Kids in America.” In five-inch stiletto shoes, black skirt, tights and a flower blouse, she said moms in China even come up to her for make-up tips for their daughters.
The audience laughed.
One of those people in the crowd who grasped Chua’s humor is Crystal Bronte, 26, from Seattle. “She gets berated for being a harsh cold parent, but she loves her children very much.”
Bronte is a Japanese American who is getting her masters in teaching at Seattle University. She asked Chua if she’d be okay if her daughters became teachers, a profession Bronte said isn’t as highly respected compared to a doctor or lawyer by Asian parents. Chua answered she would as long as her daughters are passionate about what they do.
Chua herself went into teaching and is a professor of law at Yale Law School. When the backlash surrounding her memoir erupted, Chua thought, “Oh God, I have to quit my job. What happens if they [students] boycott my class and nobody comes?”
But, the opposite happened. Her students threw her a party, and she earned an award for Best Teacher, which Chua said, “is very difficult to get at Yale.”
Don’t expect the three-time published author to write a sequel of her memoir anytime soon. Her next project is an academic book.
Would the Tiger Mother do anything over? “Sometimes I wonder if I should not have included some of those lines that got me in so much trouble. But then it would not have been an honest book.” She goes on to say, “What really matters is what my girls think of me.”
According to Chua, the memoir has brought them closer. Her older daughter, Sophia, wrote an article for the New York Post defending her mother. She is now a student at Harvard. As for Lulu, she plays tennis in high school, an extra-curricular activity that Chua didn’t warm up to at first. (Remember Chua’s rules?)
The overbearing mom loosened up when Lulu rebelled. This forced Chua to take a hard look at balancing Asian and Western childrearing ways. Chua said, “”Battle Hymn” is me almost losing my daughter [Lulu].” That’s Chua’s inspiration behind the memoir’s title, in addition to the patriotic hymn “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe.
So, where did “Tiger Mother” come from? “I was born of the year of the Tiger, and the book is filled with funny Chinese zodiac jokes.”
Whether you understand Chua’s memoir or not, she created an international discussion regarding parenting styles. “Parenthood is too complex to simplify down to what is right for every child and situation,” said John Tran, a Seattle counselor. “If there was a right way … we’d all be well-adjusted adults!”