Students, profs say Chua is misunderstood

Last week, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua published an article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” — but despite the flashy headline, Chua’s views may be far tamer.

The article, excerpted from Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” was published just days before the book’s Jan. 11 release and made Chua the target of backlash in publications such as The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Slate, and in thousands of negative comments from readers on Facebook and The Wall Street Journal’s website. But seven professors and students close to Chua said she has been misunderstood.

“I thought the Wall Street Journal excerpt showed only one side of the book, and the most extreme part at that,” said Heather Gerken, a YLS professor who described herself as Chua’s friend. “It didn’t just miss the self-deprecating humor and nuance it missed the main story, which was about why and how Amy changed her views on parenting.”

She added that she thinks Chua’s book “is the rare book that should be judged by its cover.” The cover design features three paragraphs of text, which read in part, “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”

Yale Drama School Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 said that while he is glad the article generated publicity for Chua and her book, it is not as nuanced as the book itself.

“The Chua-Rubenfelds are full of life and energy and ideas and fellowship, [and] their children are truly a pleasure to see and hang around with,” he said in an e-mail Monday. “I am devoted to the entire family, and I regret that so many responses to a frank and intelligent book — most by people who haven’t yet read it — have been narrow and/or mean.”

In an e-mail to the News Monday, Chua said she has received both criticism and encouragement from within Yale.

“Like everywhere else, there are also some very negative responses in the Yale community,” Chua said in her e-mail, “but the overwhelming majority of comments I received were supportive.”

Both Bundy and Jennifer Jones LAW ’11 said Chua’s family is close-knit. Jones said the professor’s family seemed happy when they attended the Law School’s annual Law Revue comedy show last spring.

“They all seemed to have a great sense of humor and were all willing to laugh at our parodies of Chua and [her husband, YLS professor Jed] Rubenfeld.” Jones said, adding that she has spoken with the couple’s daughters, Sophia and Louisa, and that they both “seem like extremely intelligent, kind and mature women.”

Jones and two other students said they find Chua to be a warm professor, and that she takes interest in her students’ lives.

“Many of her students open themselves up to her and rely on her for guidance and encouragement,” said Stephanie Lee LAW ’12. “She’s one of the few professors I know who actually takes the time to get to know her students individually, and this means a lot.”

Jones said Chua is an “encouraging professor and mentor,” adding that she admires Chua’s courage in writing a book based on her parenting experiences and describing that experience in the Wall Street Journal article.

Chua read from her book at The Study Friday evening. Tickets to the event sold for $35.


  • The Anti-Yale

    *Yale Drama School Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 said that while he is glad the article generated publicity for Chua and her book, it is not as nuanced as the book itself.*

    Someone had to give permission for the excerpt. Its reaction certainly could have been predicted. I do not intend to spend money purchasing the book in order to compensate for the omission of “nuance” in the WSJ excerpt.

    That would make me the dupe of “generated publicity”, wouldn’t it?

    Paul D. Keane

    Ms. Chua’s nomination for the [Bill and Melinda Gradgrind Foundation’s BAM Award][1], still stands.


  • voraciousreader

    I respectfully disagree that Ms. Chua has been misunderstood. I’m happy that some of her colleagues and students praise her. However, I am shocked that for such an intelligent woman, she could not foresee how provocative her book would be. Likewise, what I STILL cannot understand is, even if she THINKS she has tamed her Tiger bearing instincts of mothering, it still does not excuse her obnoxious and abusive behavior of her daughters.

    Listening to her interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, she was asked if she would do anything differently. She said she would give her daughters more choice. An example she gave was rather than have them, err, I mean FORCE them, to play piano or violin, perhaps she would let them consider flute or cello. Those were her words. The new and improved AND HUMBLED Amy Chu. That’s her idea of “choice.”

    For you folks at Yale, my three children are young adults ages 28,26 and 22. They’re all independent, successful and happy. I never involved myself with what instruments they chose to play, nor did I stand over them while practicing. My youngest is graduating a prestigious university in May with a degree in Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering. Oh, and he still enjoys playing his instrument!

    I’m glad she’s respected at Yale. Keep drinking the Kool Aid!

  • Bianon

    Likewise, I disagree that she’s misunderstood.

    The readers of the Wall St Journal excerpt are not compliant as she expects her children to be. We read her words and formed our opinions.

  • rhedbobbin

    What I wondered about is how absentee her husband Jed is in the story. Where’s the Rubenfeld in all this parenting mumbo-jumbo?

    “Chinese” mother Chua, born and raised in America, subjects her daughters to “Chinese” parenting. Too bad they are only half Chinese—maybe that is why things didn’t work out. That is, if you want to stick with the silly/racist models of “Chinese” vs “Western” parenting.