A night out with Amy Chua


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One cold morning in 2011 a Jewish friend sent me a link from WSJ and joked,

“How Chinese are you that you let your children have sleepovers?” Our kids had plenty sleepovers in the past.

She referred to Tiger Mom 蔡美儿 Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I read it and enjoyed it as a light heart self-deprecating memoir to raise her two marvelous daughters. Three years later, she and her husband published another controversial book, The Triple Package.

If anything, she or they are shrewd marketers.

Both books, have confused the hell out of many readers and media alike – they just didn’t get it. So when I have a chance to break bread with her, I went, even I have to drive 40 miles into New Jersey, a state clearly doesn’t like me – every time I ventured south, I get lost.

Professor Chua is very slim and energetic, loves to talk and could talk up a storm. She is an extrovert, teaches international business transactions at Yale. She’s down to earth and blunt. She had a New York Times bestseller (World on Fire 2002) prior to the Tiger Mom but the immediate media assault was enormous and that she did not anticipate. The media descended on her, they interviewed everyone around them, camped out at her daughters’ schools. NBC Today show Meredith Vieira (?) asked her up front: “Yes or no are you a monster.”

I do wonder why the media and some readers didn’t get her books? They aren’t that difficulty to decipher. Just read the books. Gosh.

image image image image

Amy’s rather bitter when Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof wrote her privately to lend their support but silent in public.

She’s on her sabbatical from school to do the publicity this year/semester. She entertained us with her trip to Davos in 2011, scheduled on the same panel with Larry Summers. However, the conference organizer decided to change subject at the last moment, to parenting. Chua mused: what does Summers know about parenting?

imageDuring the Davos conference, since she was never socialized at that level, felt kind of lonely. The MacKenzie party was the hottest ticket but she was not invited.

At the main conference, “I looked around, knew no one, totally alone. So I decided to cut my lose and go back to my hotel. My flight was following morning at 4am (not sure I heard it right)”.

She hadn’t have dinner and thought about the $60 hamburger at her hotel was just too expensive to swallow. “The daughter of two immigrants in me” saw the nicely spread and used napkin to grabbed sushi. On her way out, she then saw the delicious juicy beef. Looked around, she saw no napkin. Too delicious to pass off, with her two bare hands, she grabbed two and put them into her coat pockets (I did not make this up! Her words.). Just then Sheryl Sandberg discovered her and came over to greet her.

she still uses crackberry

she still uses crackberry

“Hanging in there.” She encouraged Amy and asked if Amy would join her to MacKenzie’s party. Sandberg also called over Timothy Geithner to meet Chua .. then came Bill Clinton. All the while her beef was dripping.

There was an gentleman, in his 60s at dinner who said he knows a partner at the law firm (Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton) she once worked,

“I called him and said, ‘you missed the boat with Chua.'” The Partner obviously also read the WSJ book review, replied,

“Yes we did. She would be fantastic to train our new associates.”

I saw her on the panel with Jeff Yang after the Fresh Off the Boat sitcom a few days ago so asked her about it, thought she knew the host or saw the show. Neither she replied. Did I detect a bit contempt or unworthy [不肖]?

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