It’s a sign of just how deep tensions are around parenting today that, over two years after Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” was published, its combination of shocking revelation, serious reflection and tongue-in-cheek exaggeration still sends T. Rex-scale ripples skittering across the surface of our sociocultural Dixie cups.
Two weeks ago, novelist Kim Wong Keltner’s “Tiger Babies Strike Back” was published — her nonfiction account of growing up under the paw of her authoritarian Tiger parents. Last week, the web was abuzz over the release of UT Austin psychology prof Su Yeong Kim’s longitudinal study tracking the parenting styles and social outcomes of over 400 Chinese American families in the Bay Area, which seemed to show that children of Tiger Parents had both poorer emotional health and lower GPAs than those of parents who embraced warmer and fuzzier child-rearing strategies.
Up until now, Chua herself has assiduously stayed out of the fray. “I really didn’t want to get into the middle of this,” she told me by phone from New Haven. “People keep trying to pit me against Kim Wong Keltner, or to ask me to comment on that parenting study, and I keep telling them ‘Look, all I did was write my personal family story. I’m not a social scientist, I’m not a parenting expert. So all this is like asking apples to comment on oranges.'” (Keltner isn’t keen on being positioned as the Anti-Chua either: “I really see my book as an alternative, not a rebuke to ‘Battle Hymn,'” she says. “And frankly, [Chua] seems like she’s smart and funny and highly accomplished and very beautiful, and we’d probably have a great time hanging out.”)