Friday, March 04, 2011

"Curse of the Tiger Other:" An Asian-American Mom Responds to the Tiger Mama Excitement

Hey Meltingpot Readers,

Over on the awesome website, My Brown Baby, blogger J. Lisa Oyama has taken on the Tiger Mama. That is, she's provided her opinion on how this Tiger Mama business has affected 'other' Asian-American moms who don't subscribe to Amy Chua's radical parenting style.

She writes, " We [have] been other-fied, once again, and by one of “us,” no less. Decades of civil rights activism fighting for Asian Americans to be recognized as Just Americans—poof! Decimated, like so many tiny fluttering cherry blossoms flying into a tsunami. One racially charged Wall Street Journal headline, and we were, once again, reduced to foreign freaks, something other than American. Other-fied."

I urge you to read the rest of the article to hear an opinion that up until now seems to have been largely absent regarding Chua's controversial book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (which coincidentally has been on the NYT Best Seller's List for the last few weeks.).

One of the commenters on Oyama's piece pointed out that it was good to hear the "other side" of being the "model minority" and I think that is a really important point. Suffice it to say, nobody wants to live under the burden of a stereotype, but it helps to hear first hand what that burden really feels like.

Any other Asian-American readers want to comment on Amy Chua's book and/or its backlash? I'm curious to know if many others feel like Oyama. Or if there is a different perspective they'd like to share. We want to hear about it here on the Meltingpot.

I'm listening.



Amy said...

I haven't read Amy Chua's book, but I have read some reviews and excerpts a while back.

I agree very much with Oyama's take. It is unfortunate that Chua's particular parenting style has been held up to the public as an example of "Chinese" parenting. The focus on the sensational and the extreme (Chua telling her 7 y.o. daughter that the birthday card she drew wasn't good enough and handing it back, forcing her daughter to spend hours practicing a piano piece without bathroom or water breaks) as typical only serves to "otherize" Chua, and by extension, other Chinese American parents, even more. Chua's Americanness (she was born and raised in this country and has lived and worked in the States for her whole life) are barely ever mentioned.

Chinese Americans (and other Asian Americans), who are often viewed as "perpetual foreigners" even if they've been born and raised in this country, put in enough energy dispelling exoticized myths about ourselves. More otherizing is not helpful.

That being said, it is true that there seem to be two camps among
Asian Americans: those who are disturbed by Chua's extreme portrait and those who celebrate her as a spokesperson and hero.

I don't disagree with Chua's principles (high standards, believing in a child's inherent strengths), but rather how those principles are put in practice.

LT said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think it's important to understand how hurtful/annoying it is to be consistently characterized as an "other' in your own country. And seeing Chua's book through that lens is key.