Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

« Previous | Jacket Copy Home | Next»

'Tiger Mother' hits Chinese bookshelves

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."
"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

Comments () | Archives (36)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I knew several kids raised like this, and alot of them were miserable. Summers and breaks spent studying, being forced to take up musical instruments, forced to study things they had no interest in. All based on the parent’s belief that it would make them more intelligent. Then watch these same average kids being forced to take advanced classes they can't keep up with, and cheat their way through high school and college

Funny, isn't it, that most Americans admire athletes -- even in junior high school -- who spend hours in repetition, drills, and fierce workouts for sports.... But these same people freak out if the same work ethic is applied by children to become "mathletes!". Academic greatness and athletic greatness both require hard work. We should not be angry at which path of hard work is chosen.

As Edison said, "Genius is 2% inspiration, and 98% perspiration." Let's cheer on the perspiration part!!

Imagination, Creativity, and Communism don't go together

As Edison said, "Genius is 2% inspiration, and 98% perspiration." Let's cheer on the perspiration part!!

Edison stole a lot of his work...

The average American kid probably needs to do more rote memory, the average Chinese kids probably needs more creative play. Simple enough.

I'm not so much against her style, though it is extreme, but the lady is a psycho! I watched a bit of an interview that she gave and she is just plain nuts! Her parenting style is the most normal thing about her - she is just a frank nut job.

I'm thinking maybe we could meet halfway on this. Americans could learn something from Chinese culture, and the Chinese could learn something from America. We've done that before haven't we? It will be so nice when the internet finally bypasses all these silly governments and other institutions (like publishing houses) that are obsolete.

This "lady" should be called the Tyrant Mom. Over strict parents develop under-socialized kids who get released into the real world and end up going to the other extreme, ruining their lives.

Look at former USC quarterback, Todd Marinovich. Same kind of parenting and he turned into a freak when he was finally cut loose.

It certainly looks like the Wall Street Journal has ensured brisk sales of Chua's book by publishing an article with the title, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior".

In China, an article with the title, "Why American Mothers Are Superior" could be published to obtain the same outstanding results.


1) the elders came from poor country just realize they can't accomplish their dream so they pass on to their children. they expect their children to be:
a) doctor
b) engineer
c) pharmacist
2) they don't want their children repeat the same cycle: poverty.

it's all about being poor. DUH


"Imagination, Creativity, and Communism don't go together"

Russia during the time of the Soviet Union did not have Nobel Prize Winners in science and literature? Or great poets and writers? Or great film directors? BTW, Russia is yet another country that emphasizes academic rigour (Russians are known to read War and Peace in one sitting) and consistently ranks among the top 5 of all Math Olympiads

"I knew several kids raised like this, and alot of them were miserable"

I also knew several adults who had lax, loving, esteem-building parents and they (the children) grew up to be a pride of Godzillas. They are generally unsuccessful in life because 1) they have never been pushed to excel and 2)any sort of minor life challenge flummoxes them. They are rude, self-centered and inconsiderate and blame everyone but themselves for their life's difficulties. I don't see how this cohort (which is not insignificant) are any happier than those who, as children, had been cajoled to apply themselves

I am not of Chinese origin, but I am a racial ethinic "minority". I was raised by parents who had a strong work ethic. The most important thing about school was "that piece of Paper(diploma) and made sure I studied hard. I was a straight A student (skipped a full year of school and was in talented and gifted classes regularly, had college credit before I graduated high school), got scholarships, etc., graduated at the top of my class from high school and college and also have a master's degree in business, mostly due to my parents support, encouragement and love. Every child of my generation in my extended family is a college graduate and a professional of some kind.

However, I also had lots of friends, sleepovers and a ton of fun while growing up. You can have a real childhood while getting good grades. It is not either or.

@FutureUser - that is a great point. Even more so because spending so many hours trying to perfect yourself at sports is extremely unlikely to result in a career in sports, or even a scholarship. On the other hand, working hard at academics can give you a better chance at life.

I often think Americans have their priorities messed up.

@FutureUser: I'm usually against this kind of harsh academic drilling, but you make a very good point. Do remember, however, that training an athlete to the point of long-term injury isn't good. Likewise, kids shouldn't be pushed academically to the point of mental illness or social deficiency. I'm sure you agree, but I just wanted to vocalize the needed balance.

People pay big money to see athletes play,nobody,s going to pay a dime to watch a mathlete,they'll bore you to sleep..

Andrew, what is your problem?

As a professor at a private university in California who sees many mainland Chinese students, I have to say that Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is an excellent guide to creating young automatons.

I see too many students from China that lack the ability to think for themselves and have little or no imagination thanks to this type of rigorous parenting. There needs to be a balance of education and discipline in addition to much needed recreation for young people.

Seeing children endure stress levels that most adults would not be able to cope with seems cruel. There are many successful people who went to great schools such as Harvard, Stanford, and Yale who were very studious, but also had lives that include friends and fun!

I haven't yet read this book. Perhaps I will, maybe not. But I have yet to hear, in anything I've heard about this book, about how this mother instructs her children in the gentle arts of being gentle. Productivity alone is not what makes the world go round. Nor has it inspired creativity. A mind free to roam, at least occasionally, is what makes advancement possible. The part I've heard about her rejecting her children's hand made cards made me wince. Unconditional love, mother. You should try it sometime.

I am concerned that the Tiger devours the will and leaves only aimless capability.

It seems that the inmates who populate our prisons should receive excellence awards in creativity and imagination because they have rejected standardized math, science and reading exams. Is there a silver lining to being a deadbeat and school dropout?

Endless math training and stealing summers from our kids so they can master a tuba is not what the US needs. Neither is the endless credentialism encouraged by US universities.

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were tinkerers not math whizes.

Bill Gates dropped out of college. Howard Hughes never finished college. Hughes' father started the oil drilling business and was a lawyer not a mathlete.

John Paul Getty trained to be a diplomat, not a mathematician or an engineer. Getty's father was a lawyer not a math prodigy.

The American who invented the Bessemer process for steel before Bessemer was a tinkerer. Andrew Carnegie who became a steel magnate was a Scot who never went to college.

Abe Lincoln never went to high school or college, but understood the promise of the US betetr than many who did.

Innovations will come from kids that have a chance to grow, mature, and dream. Not from kids that were press-ganged out of youth and into their parent's idea of success.

As an Asian-American of Chinese descent, I don't know what is the big deal about this book!! Growing up, my mother did not put an emphasis on discipline which is way overblown in Amy Chua's book but to respect YOUR elders and follow by the rules! My mother was a corporate attorney and my father a police officer wanted me to have a normal American life! My parents intdoctrine me into sports because in the corporate and government world TEAMWORK is more important than the individual which is lacking in Chua's book! I was 2 1/2 years old when I saw my first Lakers game, played Little League Baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the LAPD, and was a fervent Los Angeles Raiders football fan. In the meantime, I got involved in LOWRIDER CARS and Hip-Hop music. All this goes against the grain in TIGER MOM! What Amy Chua needs to do is examine American influences in an Asian child and how the parents try to cope with it instead of giving HER version because my Asian friends are more HARDCORE than ME and are laughing at her book!!!

The point of this book is not about test taking, school work, etc. It's about not taking any crap from your kids and constantly blowing smole up their rear ends about how great they are, despite the fact they don't try to achieve anything. Most parents in this country are so afraid of hurting their kids self esteem, that they have turned a generation of kids into wusses who cannot deal with any type of adversity.

Heard that there is a theory in Chinese academia that the old method of memorization in China was developed to minimize riots by those in power. This was in the colonial days. Young people are so busy with memorization they don't have time to revolt.

And for all this, after all this badgering and name-calling and psychological manipulation, the author gets -- to be a lawyer.

It seems like this is punishment enough for two lifetimes.

Let's get this straight. Amy Chua is NOT an advocate of rote learning, the common way in China in passing exams. Amy Chua is a Chinese AMERICAN whose cultural values reflects the Chinese tradition that education is the most important aspect in life. This belief is by no means unique to Asian Americans. America was built by immigrants who came to this country to make a better life for themselves and contributed to the greatness of this country. In the Japanese language, the words for "to study" are the Chinese characters for "to struggle". In other words it takes effort to make yourself better. That is Amy Chua's point. You may judge her to be excessive in the level of expectation but everyone agrees that children achieve higher success when they are expected to. In truth there is a certain amount of condescension we Asian Americans feel toward our fellow Americans who wants only to "enjoy life" without putting much effort at making accomplishments. This is what is upsetting so many people, that America needs to re-examine its cultural values and put education as the highest priority, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address.

Along with students and profs from a top American university, I actually visited several elementary and high schools in China a few months ago. I have video of little kids learning in that dreaded "rote" way, of kids creating just amazing clay sculptures, of kids playing beautiful music on incredible instruments, and of kids going bananas at recess. Just like kids at our own schools.

Unfortunately, many seem to assume the stereotype is the truth. Worse, I think, is our rush to defend mediocrity.

I picked up some great ideas in China, and I passed on some pretty good ones to their teachers as well. They never said their methods were perfect. Neither should we.

At the end of the day it is the character of the person that counts.

Tiger Woods spends endless hours rigorously practicing a sport that earns him a place in the pantheon of extraordinary athletes
Shakespeare early life requires intense study and long hours to make him one of the most thoroughly educated and multilingual men of his era who wrote extraordinary and enduring literature that is revered to this day.
Thousands of Mathematicians, Physicists, Botanist and Engineers in the late 1700’s and 1800’s had this same kind of classical education and created an extraordinary and enduring body of work including Relativity, Hypergeometries, Statistics, Evolution, the Panama Canal, and the railroads in Europe and America.
What good does it do to make a child grow up in kindergarten for 18 years? I am not saying that as kids get older they shouldn’t have some say in their educational and social direction, but with absolute horrible failure of a US educational system run by the functional idiots promoted in a broke and corrupt system, parent have a duty to take control and push their kids to excellence.

Imagination and creativity is what progress is all about. It is not the math wiz or science geek but the creative types that change the world for the better. A science geek will give you a nuclear bomb and some fancy technology, but a creative and visionary person will keep us focused on the amazing things in life and thus inspire us to do great things. Thats why America admires athletes and sport so much. Cause life is not all about math and science on paper but the soul science inside of us. The human condition.

I apologize for being so blunt, but I really hate the book cover design, it looks so unintelligent and cheap for such a good reading. It doesn't say anything about the content. I'm not sure people in China would be interested to buy/read it at all. On the side note, I really appreciate Amy Chua for writing this book. I find it so interesting to see how people reacted differently towards this book from reading all the comments from WSJ and latimes.

Jeez, now she becomes Filipino? The Filipinos dont want to be called Asians.

Asians generate hate because of what they are, whiny victimhood players and addled with unwarranted superiority complex at the same time.

Im a Filipino and please stop marketing this fool a Filipino.

You might get sued.

A relaxed education system currently advocated by our mainstream educators, seems to focus on maximizing the potentials of the top and bottom 10%. A vigorous education system previously advocated by our mainstream educators in the first half of the 20th century, seemed to focus on maximizing the potentials of the middle 50%. We look at the Chinese system forgetting that they are basically following what we were doing a few generations ago. Is it better? Depends on if the kid is in the top/bottom 10% or not.

Another example: look at all the sun bathing and tanning salons. You would think that getting a copper tone tan had been the standard of beauty all along. But remember "my fair lady"? That "fair" meant minimal sun exposure. The funny thing is that the women in China now are really into keeping their skin from looking tanned.

I don't know why everyone is bashing rote memorization. You guys DO realize that you can't be "creative" in a field until you've memorized/learned the basics of that field?

You won't be a "creative" chemist until you've memorized the basic tenets of chemistry.

you can't be a creative mathematician until you know how to add and subtract.

Try doing physics without learning the formulas first or even understanding the theories and the meaning of the symbols (which is probably why I sucked at physics).

I mean seriously, a chemist who doesn't know how to balance a basic redox rxn, or write chemical formulas is NOT going to be creating anything new anytime soon. And organic chemistry is basically entirely rote memorization (there are rule's in chemistry that you just have to know and if you can't draw the formulas and know what's realistic or unrealistic it's just not going to work). Watson and crick were able to determine the structure of DNA because they understood enough chemistry to be able to predict that's possible (of course the xray crystallography picture helped). If they didn't do any rote memorization in their chem class, they wouldn't know how to even put the structure together!!!

If shakespear didn't have the alphabet memorized and a solid knowledge of the english language, he would not have been able to be so creative with his writing.

Until you have a solid foundation, there is nothing upon which to build your creativity.

Now I have to do some more memorizing for a science class.....because you can't even understand research papers until you have the basics "memorized".

ask any american college student if it's true that we're creative because we don't do rote memorization and they'll laugh in your face.

Why all of the jealousy and hate? Would you prefer Ms. Chua to raise her children to be racial supremacists who do not feel like they have to work at all because they are of a certain race like 99% of white American parents do?

It seems to me as if white people cannot accept the fact that someone is ACTUALLY superior to them for a change.

Asian kids are #1 in the world while most white American kids think they can ride by on "white skin" privileges like they have been doing for the past 5 centuries.

As a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years and the author of a book on parenting, I"m not surprised that American parents are considering a memoir as a guide for child rearing. American children are more depressed, anxious, entitled and unmotivated than they have been in many years. Parents are over-indulging children in most areas - material goods, bad behavior, and praise for the most mundane of accomplishments. Being an authoritative, yet loving parent produces the most well-adjusted and happy children. It's not that hard. American parents need to educate themselves.
I have posted a video parody of tiger mom, for those who want a smile. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zrdoOPOGp8

Sheri Noga - Author of "Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence"


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Explore Bestsellers Lists





Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.