'Tiger Mother' author faces a tough crowd at Politics and Prose

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2011

The monstrous, horrible Tiger Mother has reportedly entered the building, and the audience is getting restless.

"He's missing the event of the year," whispers one Asian woman in the Politics and Prose bookstore Friday evening, about a "he" who is presumably her husband.

"Is it the event of the year?" her friend asks.

"For Chinese people it is," she says. "The event of the year."

Up at the front, Lorin Kleinman turns to her seatmate. "What did you bring to throw?" she asks. "I brought eggs." She is joking.

By 5:30 p.m. the parking lot is full for the 7 p.m. reading of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." By 6 p.m. every chair is taken, and people begin protectively reserving floor space with their jackets. An announcement is made: The event will be broadcast throughout the store on closed-circuit televisions. Those who cannot see the monstrous, horrible Tiger Mother in person will, the announcement assures everyone, be able to hear the monstrous, horrible Tiger Mother's voice.

And then, as if summoned by the collective subconscious, by the sum total of all parental insecurities and American inferiority complexes, the Tiger Mother appears. Amy Chua has a bubbly laugh and very nice hair. She weighs maybe 100 pounds.

She smiles.

The audience bares its teeth.

"It has been," Chua says cheerfully, "a pretty intense month."

By now you have heard the back story. In January, a "Tiger Mother" excerpt appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The article was headlined "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"; the ensuing explanation seemed to be "Because they are wackadoo."

Chua, a Yale law professor, describes forcing her daughters to practice piano for hours without bathroom or water breaks, and requiring hundreds of nightly math problem sets. She rejects her children's homemade birthday cards when they do not meet her standards.

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