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2.10.2011

2/2 Writers Agree: Chinese Mothers Are Doing Nothing For The Arts

Two interesting blog posts from Chinese American writers where they explore Amy Chua's parenting style. (Meanwhile, somewhere Amy Chua is drinking tea with her daughter's tennis couch, saying "Somewhere out there, people are discussing my parenting style.")

While drawing from their own particular experiences, Angie Choi ("My parents weren't that crazy....I was one of those overachieving, Type A personalities that didn't need the tiger mom kind of parenting. I'd be freaking out if I didn't get straight A's or if I didn't play that Beethoven sonata perfectly. My parents were always telling me to calm down. To which I'd reply, "Don't tell me to calm down. Don't ever fuckin' tell me to calm down. Bleh, bleh, bleh...") and Tess Gerritsen (" My dad absolutely forbade me from dating until I was a senior in high school. That doesn’t mean I actually followed the rules)" come to the same conclusion: Chinese parents are no good for arts.

Angie Choi:

I do however, think it's a big shame that the arts and whatnot (most likely) won't get the next big thing from the Chinese Tiger mom. Because can you imagine how much richer the world would be if all those Chinese moms vigorously encouraged all their kids to follow their hearts and their passions? How much more contribution from the Asian community we would have not only in the arts but other fields?
Tess Gerritsen:

But there’s also a dark side to growing up with tiger parents. I’ve heard from too many Asians whose dreams of careers in the arts were thwarted by their parents. One 45-year-old computer engineer wrote me, mourning the fact he was now too old to pursue a fashion career. “I have only one life, and I’m spending it at a job I hate. Because it’s what my parents wanted for me.” I heard the story of a young man whose parents wouldn’t let him pursue a singing career, and instead demanded he became a doctor. The day he earned his medical degree, he called his father and said, “I’ve done what you wanted. Now I’m doing what I want.” And he became one of the top opera singers in China.
I definitely identify with such statements. My parents don't know I'm pursuing a writing career. Like Choi, inside the Asian American community I'm somewhat of a failure, especially after so many lectures about getting straight A's and being a doctor, or perhaps a lawyer. But two things: 1) I'm proud that my parents are fucked up. These are the same people who nearly kicked me out when I came out, the same people who are always criticizing me. Without such a background, I don't think I'd have material to write from; and 2) as a writer, I'm in the great tradition of building a culture. While I might not even come to the point where I'm famous and lecture at colleges, writers as a whole are empowered because they shape culture. And meanwhile, Asian parents are telling their kids to be average. While economically understandable (there's a podcast now deleted of Tess Gerritsen talking about how the children of immigrant are more likely to pursue an career outside of the arts than second or third generations, since the later generation are more assimilated and that pressure to culturally perform and be financially successful is gone), our culture probably missed out on some very important thinkers.

If I still talked to my parents, this would be how I would explain my career decisions. I would tell them that I'm the shit.

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