Thursday, January 12, 2012

Date With a Tiger Mother

Hello. I'm back! I realize that I have a lot of back-dated posts to write and I've been wanting to get to them, but since my vacation to the east coast, I've been both busy and lazy. I keep wanting to write posts for December, but I end up postponing the ones I want to write now, such as last Saturday's Republican debate, the Iowa Caucus, and the New Hampshire primary. There are also posts for my 40th birthday, my 1991 newsletter, Christmas at home, the New Year, the Best of 2011, a couple movie reviews, a tribute to Vaclav Havel, to name a few. But, those will be written as I find extra time. There's even craziness going on the church's Facebook page in the past few days (three individuals in particular have a tendency to throw accusations to others about being "attacked" whenever someone happens to disagree with their very ultra-conservative religious views. I'm sure it will be an interesting post). In fact, while the back and forth level of nastiness between the ultra conservatives with a grievance against the church and the liberal minded church members were going on, my blog received a couple comments on an old post I had written last September about another strange woman who went off on me on Facebook, accusing me of being bipolar, off meds, and dropped on my head as a baby all because I did not agree with her negative opinions about the Mormon Church or the Community of Christ. What is with mentally imbalanced middle aged white women and me? I simply do not get along with this demographic (the conservative, uneducated, middle aged white woman who has never traveled much). In case you want to see the comments that people left, check out the post entitled "Fundamentalist Freakshow" from September 2011.

Switching gears, the new year is starting off too great, in terms of lecture / booksignings at Powell's City of Books in Portland. Wednesday night was Amy Chua, who wrote last year's most controversial best seller, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her book is now in paperback and I'm glad to have the opportunity to meet her in person. She's had a rough year. I wrote a post about her book last year, though I haven't read it in a long time so I can't remember what I might've written. In my view, I think she was unfairly criticized. Though there were some things worth criticizing (particularly the incident she had written about rejecting a card that her daughter had made for her because it wasn't "good enough", or the insistence that her daughters had to choose between playing the piano or the violin, which comes off as elitist and stereotypical. Working for a music company, you have no idea how many CDs we have of young Asian prodigies who play piano concertos or violin cantatas), overall, Amy Chua comes across as wanting the best for her daughters and to instill discipline at a critical age so they don't grow up to be at a loss about what to do in life.

The media loves to fabricate its heroes and villains, and based on some of the reviews I've read, Chua became a caricature in the media as a "Mommy Dearest" of the Decade. The mom from hell! So, when I found out that she was coming to Powell's, I was quite excited to finally see her in person and hear her view of things without the media's filter. There are a few more book signings in the next week that I plan to attend, so stay tuned for posts on those (including a book about one atheist's search for God and meaning in life and a bartender's new career bringing fresh water to some of the poorest countries in the world through his non-profit organization called Wine Into Water or something like that).

Amy Chua is an attractive Chinese American woman who is married to a Caucasian guy (if I'm not mistaken, I think I read that he's Jewish, so they are a Jewish-Chinese family). Both are professors at Yale University, so they are academia to the core. Of course they are going to have high expectations for their children and push them to succeed. She has written a few books about economics but no one heard of her until last year when her book captured the media spotlight and caused a stir among the chattering elite about parenting styles. As Chua mentioned, the Wall Street Journal did her no favours when they featured the book a few days after publication last January in an article provocatively titled: "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." She said that she was horrified by that title because she felt that it misrepresented what her book was about. She wrote it as a comedic tale about the rebellion of her youngest daughter Lulu to her strict parenting style and in the book itself, she changes a little bit, coming to agreement with her willful daughter on some points of contention. The media, on the other hand, decided to play up the book as a clash of values between Asian versus American parenting styles. The media sold this book as a how-not-to parent guide rather than a memoir.

Despite the controversy, Chua displayed a sense of humour about her experience of the past year. Though her family approved of her book, she mentioned that her oldest daughter (now in college) told her that people are going to view Lulu as the hero and her (Sophia) as the villain (because she went along with her mother's parenting rules without any contention). Chua also mentioned how the book was sold in China. She said that she wished she could put a stop to what they published, but her friends in China said that it has actually inspired a good debate there about parenting. The book is titled in China as something along the lines of "A Yale University Professor's Approach to Parenting."

She did a Q & A after her lecture and then signed books. While waiting in line, there was a lady who brought her young daughter, who might've been around 8 years old and had asked a question of Chua during the Q & A (if Lulu still played the violin). The mother told me that her daughter loves Chua's book and wants to be a writer when she grows up. I was impressed and told her mother to keep encouraging that goal and to read and write something every day. I love seeing children with a passion for something. It made me think of my own parents, who did not encourage my writing when I was growing up and actually criticized my tendency towards writing (though they are the opposite now and would love to see my dream of being a published novelist come true). I could've used a "Tiger Mother" growing up!

When I got up to Chua to have her sign the copy I'd buy, I asked her if she had sold the book to Hollywood yet. She said that she did have some offers but wanted to wait for things to settle down first (I guess it really was a rough year for her). I had told her that the controversy was a good thing because it caused a necessary debate in our country. In her lecture, she sounded shocked about the response her book caused and how many viewed her as an awful mother. But, the way I see controversy is that its a good thing if people are talking about it. The worst thing for a writer is to have one's book ignored and unsold. Getting any kind of media attention is always a good thing, even if you're made out to be the villain. On a personal level, when my novel gets published someday, I would welcome a media debate about it and wouldn't care if people made me out to be a villain. I'm quite used to people thinking all kinds of things about me, so I'm well prepared for controversy and personal attacks. The key is to respond with wit and humour.

I told Chua that if she does sell her book to Hollywood, that she should seek out Michelle Yeoh because Yeoh had wanted to make a movie about Aung San Suu Kyi. Chua was stunned when I said that because she said that Yeoh did approach her to see about buying the rights to the book and she had just seen The Lady and hopes that Yeoh will win the Oscar for that role. I had no idea that movie is out already and can't wait to see it, but I am amazed too. Michelle Yeoh is one of my favourite actresses and I want to see her in more movies. Its not surprising that she approached Chua about her book. I told Chua that she should absolutely trust Yeoh to do a good job with her book. I hope my comments will inspire Chua to contact Yeoh to negotiate the film rights. I understand that a writer wants a faithful adaptation and I have no doubt that a film version of this book will be very interesting and worth watching. Until then, I finally get to read this book I've been wanting to read for a year now (I prefer to buy most books in paperback).

It was a great evening. Before I went to Powell's, I was on the streetcar when a lady with a bicycle got on board. She was a white, petite woman with a "Bohemian" look to her, including glasses and short hair. I loved her style (clothing style of the ankle length skirt and a gray sweater) and wanted to talk to her, but the streetcar was crowded and I hate private / personal conversations when eavesdroppers are present. This lady, the Bohemian Bicyclist, is exactly the type of woman I'm looking for. Had we crossed paths in a less public place (on the street instead of in a crowded streetcar), I might've initiated a conversation. I hope our paths will cross again. I did not see a ring on her finger. She's what I would call "uniquely beautiful", as I don't see her as a type that many guys would jump at the chance to date. Her vibe was very much "Bohemian" or what some may think of as a quirky librarian type. I know I probably should've been bolder about initiating a conversation, but she did get me thinking. I really want to meet my wife this year. That will be my meditative focus. As far as parenting style, I'm the kind who likes to read and observe many styles and take the best of everything I come across. We'll see what the best ideas the Tiger Mother has to say in her book when I read it next week.

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