Tag Archives: Natalie Hopkinson

Voices: On Black Parents and Amy Chua

Amy Chua — author of the controversial parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which gained notoriety recently when an excerpt from it, about the superiority of strict Chinese mothers, appeared in the Wall Street Journal — would agree that assimilation into the American system doesn’t make much sense. In many ways, her experience as Tiger Mother represents both the disease of and cure for modern parenting.

Many have inferred from her much discussed new memoir that disproportionate Asian academic success can be attributed to a regimen of no sleepovers, no playdates, no quitting, no coddling, no praising mediocrity and lots of drills. The ancient Chinese secret is, in short, demand perfection and accept nothing less. Children are not so fragile that they will break under these expectations.

This is the same immigrant work ethic that catapulted my parents from poverty in Guyana to the country-club class of North America. Ditto for my husband’s parents in Jamaica, and Allison’s husband’s parents in the Caribbean. Ditto, it should be said, for Allison’s grandparents, who, as Isabel Wilkerson’s brilliant book on the Great Migration showed, had their own immigrant experience moving from the South to Northern cities, where their achievements in culture and society forever changed America. 

But Chua is also part of the disease, because she has essentially written a manual for how to create superior sheep. But I still share many of her philosophies on the sturdiness of children, and in general have enormous respect for her. There she is, a Yale Law School professor, married to a white professor at the same school — technocratic royalty in the land where privilege was invented — and yet she has not allowed that success to be a reason to lose her identity, melting away into the American pot.

–Natalie Hopkinson, How to Raise a Model Minority

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