Many of us read the excerpt of Amy Chua’s The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in The Wall Street Journal. More than 5,000 Journal readers commented on the WSJ’s website, more than any other article in the Journal’s history. The Chinese tough love approach to childrearing infuriated many.
I was not altogether astonished by this strict approach to parenting. Not surprisingly, immigrant parents want their children to take advantage of opportunities denied them. Chua’s essay brought to mind Amy Tan’s novel, The Joy Luck Club. The opening passage tells of a Chinese woman who bought a duck that “stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look [it is a swan] too beautiful to eat.” The duck/swan image “a creature that became more than what was hoped for” symbolizes the mother’s dreams for her daughter.
Having taught English to hundreds of immigrants over the years, I heard so many stories of parents forced to leave everything behind in Romania, Iran, Cambodia and Viet Nam. Whereas many Americans have given up on the American dream, immigrants fervently believe in it. Their profound optimism and belief that their children will become “more than what was hoped for” reinvigorates America. Their children’s success is their success.