By Alia Marsha
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Tiger Mom” Amy Chua defended her parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother when it sparked off national and international debate in 2011, accusing readers of taking it too seriously and saying that it’s “supposed to be funny.” She’s come back roaring with a new book, co-written with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, about the success of certain immigrant groups in the United States.
Undersimplifying the experience of these groups by using three “unlikely” traits, one wonders if The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America is just more of her comedic show.
The book explores why some cultural groups in the United States are more materialistically successful than others. Speaking at the Seattle Central Library on Feb. 12, the two attempted to argue their case in less than an hour, and the result was unconvincing.
Chua and Rubenfeld stated that three personality traits contribute to the success of different immigrant groups: superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. Each immigrant group, they said, thinks that they have exceptional qualities that set them apart from the others, while at the same time feeling insecure due to these same qualities. On top of it all, they said immigrants maintain strong self-discipline. Chua and Rubenfeld proposed that these three traits create a recipe for success.
What the authors failed to mention is that not all immigrants come to the United States with the same socio-economic background. It is ludicrous to view, for example, undocumented immigrants and high-tech professional immigrants through the same lens.
The authors, who are both law professors at Yale University, acknowledged that the topic of the book might be difficult to bear because it “feels racially charged.” Indeed, an overwhelming amount of the criticism directed at the book accuses it of being reductive of the reality of immigrant groups. Time magazine pointed to the changing language of racism, which it stated to be the heart of The Triple Package, saying, “It’s not about skin color anymore — it’s about ‘cultural traits.’”
Chua admitted she was expecting some “tough ones” in the audience, but said it was generally a “good crowd.” Afterward, long lines for purchase and signing of the book formed in the library’s Microsoft Auditorium.
For the less convinced, Chua said, “It’s a complex book. We tried to show that [the book] is really good for generating academic success and economic success. But that’s not what life is all about…We try to offer an honest and nuanced view of success and its psychological underpinning and some of its costs. I think a lot of people want a simple how-to, but life is too complex.”
Precisely. The complexity of the definitions of success, combined with one’s circumstances in life, is what makes The Triple Package difficult to bear. (end)
Alia Marsha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.