America’s Top Parent

What’s behind the“Tiger Mother” craze?

by Elizabeth Kolbert

As a

As a “Chinese mother,” Amy Chua set rules for her girls: no sleepovers, no playdates, no grade lower than an A on a report card.

“Call me garbage.”

The other day, I was having dinner with my family when the subject of Amy Chua’s new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (Penguin Press; $25.95), came up. My twelve-year-old twins had been read an excerpt from the book by their teacher, a well-known provocateur. He had been sent a link to the excerpt by another teacher, who had received it from her sister, who had been e-mailed it by a friend, and, well, you get the point. The excerpt, which had appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the headline “WHY CHINESE MOTHERS ARE SUPERIOR,” was, and still is, an Internet sensation—as one blogger put it, the “Andromeda Strain of viral memes.” Within days, more than five thousand comments had been posted, and “Tiger Mother” vaulted to No. 4 on Amazon’s list of best-sellers. Chua appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and on NBC’s “Nightly News” and “Today” show. Her book was the topic of two columns in last week’s Sunday Times, and, under the racially neutral headline “IS EXTREME PARENTING EFFECTIVE?,” the subject of a formal debate on the paper’s Web site.

Thanks to this media blitz, the basic outlines of “Tiger Mother”’s story are by now familiar. Chua, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is a Yale Law School professor. She is married to another Yale law professor and has two daughters, whom she drives relentlessly. Chua’s rules for the girls include: no sleepovers, no playdates, no grade lower than an A on report cards, no choosing your own extracurricular activities, and no ranking lower than No. 1 in any subject. (An exception to this last directive is made for gym and drama.)

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