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'Tiger Mother' hits Chinese bookshelves

January 27, 2011 |  6:13 am

Author Amy Chua's controversial ode to parenting, detailed in her bestselling book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," was predicated on her being a "Chinese mother."

So now that her book has arrived in China, is she just called a "mother"?

Not quite. The Yale law professor's memoir about rearing her two daughters by strictly denying them everything from sleepovers to computer games is being marketed in China as something more foreign than familiar.

The book's title has been translated into Chinese as "Being a Mom in America." The book's publisher, CITIC Publishing House, describes Chua, the daughter of Filipino-Chinese parents, as "overseas Chinese."
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"When copyright agencies approached us last summer, we foresaw her book would be controversial," Wang Feifei, acquisition editor at CITIC Publishing House, told the Xinhua News Agency. "We don't take it as a traditional parenting book, largely because it involves intense cross-cultural collision and conflict."

The book has been available online since mid-January and ranked No. 80 in sales as of Thursday on Joyo.com, a Chinese version of Amazon. It is to receive wider distribution at bookstores after the Feb. 3 Chinese New Year holiday.

Despite the publisher's spin, it's unclear if Chinese parents will be drawn into reading about Chua's perceived advocacy of regimental learning –- be it hours of piano playing or hundreds of math problems at the expense of fun and games.

The news that Chinese mothers and fathers impart strength over affection is nothing new.

But the book actually arrives at a time when the Chinese are doing some soul-searching about the merits of rote learning.

"The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood," wrote Chen Weihua, an editor at the state-run China Daily, around the time students in Shanghai had made headlines by besting the rest of the world in standardized math, science and reading exams.

Xiong Bingqi, an education expert at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, told The Times' Megan Stack earlier this month that Chinese students lacked imagination and creativity.

"In the long run, for us to become a strong country, we need talent and great creativity," Xiong said. "And right now, our educational system cannot accomplish this."

-- David Pierson in Beijing

Photo: The cover of Amy Chua’s book in China. Credit: CITIC Publishing House

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