Capacity crowd turns up to hear “tiger mom” Amy Chua

The lines were literally out the door Thursday night at the Hillside Club, where Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was on stage for a KPFA fundraiser.

Chua’s views on parenting have triggered an explosion of heated debate internationally after the Wall Street Journal ran a provocative excerpt of her book on January 8 titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” (a headline she does not approve of). A number of people who had booked tickets online to see Chua in Berkeley were turned away after Brown Paper Tickets oversold the event.

More than 200 people, roughly half of whom were Asian, made it into the Hillside Club, several choosing to stand to hear Chua being interviewed for over an hour and a half by KPFA’s Aimee Allison. Chua, who has local roots in that her father, Leon O. Chua, teaches at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and she attended El Cerrito High School, spoke breathlessly about her memoir which, she said, had been misrepresented as a parenting guide.

Admitting she had been “compulsively cruel”, raising her two daughters with “brutal demands, verbal abuse and disrespect for their desires”, Chua said she had learned to balance her rigid views with a more relaxed Western approach . “When Chinese parenting succeds, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “But it doesn’t always succeed.”


She pointed out that rebellion was an underlying theme in the book. Her father, for instance, had insisted she attend Cal; Chua forged a signature on an application to Harvard, however, and went there, eventually becoming a law professor at Yale. He also told her, when she was just four years old, that “over my dead body will you marry a non-Asian”. Chua introduced her father to her Jewish husband, Jed Rubenfeld, also a law professor at Yale, when they became engaged.

Asked whether the Hillside Club had ever seen such large numbers for an event, manager Karen Folger Jacobs said there was a similar turn-out last week when Marxist professor and author Richard Wolff talked about his latest book Capitalism Hits the Fan. “It may have even been more people,” she said.

“She’s more normal than I thought she would be,” said a young woman who came to see Chua, whom the Daily Beast has dubbed “America’s most controversial mom”.

Berkeley writer Ayelet Waldman, who penned a counterview to Chua in the WSJ, titled “In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom”, was not spotted at the event. A pity, because a back and forth between these two vocal, tigerish mothers we would have liked to see.