Tiger Mom's New Book Stirs Up Culture Wars

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Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff
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Remember 2011's "Tiger Moms," the most buzzy and controversial child rearing philosophy since helicoptering and attachment parenting? Well now the ire-raising author of "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," Amy Chua, who argued that strict, Chinese moms are best, is back--and on her way to raising even more hackles this time around. Her latest book, "The Triple Package," deems eight cultural groups in America as being superior to others, analyzing why. And, though the book is not due out until February, Twitter criticisms are already flying, with many calling Chua "racist."

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But the reality, notes the book, co-written by Chua's husband and fellow Yale professor Jed Rubenfeld, is that "uncomfortable as it may be to talk about," some "religious, ethnic, and national-origin groups are starkly more successful than others." Those groups, according to the authors, are Mormons, Cuban exiles, Nigerian Americans, Indian Americans, Chinese Americans, American Jews, Iranian Americans and Lebanese Americans. And the reasons they excel, the book notes, is because of a basic "triple package" formula: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

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The authors do note, early on in the book, "we need to say a word about cultural generalizations and stereotypes." They explain, "Throughout this book, we will never make a statement about any group's economic performance or predominant cultural attitudes unless it is backed up by solid evidence, whether empirical, historical, or sociological. But when there are differences between groups, we will come out and say so." They add, "Group generalizations turn into invidious stereotypes when they're false, hateful, or assumed to be true of every group member. No group and no culture is monolithic."

But that hasn't quieted critics, who have responded with angry tweets to early reviews of the book. "Just mulling over how awesome it would be if no one bought Amy Chua's eugenics-insanity, race-trolling book," notes blogger Liz Dwyer. Ryan Lee Wong tweets, "Dear Penguin: though you have the right to publish Amy Chua's neo-eugenicist trolling, I do think there are better ways to make money." AsAm News, meanwhile, notes, "Amy Chua's claims of racial superiority don't do anyone any good." Other choice phrases on Twitter: "racist," "awful," "racist psychopath," "idiot," "nonsense," "race baiting clap trap" and, finally, from the political organization MOMcrats, "Amy Chua trolls us all for college tuition for child number two/book number two. YAWN."

In 2011, Chua angered many with the points she made in "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," in which she makes a case for what she notes are the strict but winning Chinese-American parenting style (including calling her own children, at some point, "garbage").

This time around, bloggers are already mad. "It's rife with American exceptionalism and model minority thinking--the notion that anyone can succeed in America if they just act right, and those who don't will get what they deserve," notes Race Files blogger Soya Jung, just about the title. Jung says she hasn't read the book and doesn't intend to, explaining, "My main problem with this is that it ignores the history of race in America," particularly when it comes to that of black Americans.

Prachi Gupta of Salon calls the new book Chua's "personal rant about her cultural superiority." Kenton Ngo, meanwhile, blogs, "It's too simplistic to read Chua's thesis as a form of racism. In fact, it's more sinister than that. Chua, her husband, and many other members of the 1% genuinely believe they got to where they were because they were somehow inherently better people…The worst part about this sordid saga is that both of them are tenured law professors at Yale. If anything exposes the dark, seedy underbelly of the elite views of their own superiority, it's that the people teaching future white-shoe lawyers and M&A sharks genuinely believe that some ethnic groups are simply not cut out for life. No wonder our social safety net is under attack."

Chua and Rubenfeld have not yet responded to the wave of criticism. But if the book's narrative is any indication, it won't be taken to heart. "Scorn," the duo writes in Chapter 4, "is a legendary motivator."

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