Amy Chua, author of the controversial memoir about parenting Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has hit back at allegations that her new book is racist – claiming that most critics have not even read the work.
After arguing in her most famous book for the supremacy of strict Chinese parenting over relaxed Western child attitudes, Chua’s latest book claims to identify traits in eight ethnic groups that she says help them outperform others in the US.
The new work, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, has been criticised for playing to racial stereotypes, with the New York Post dismissing it as a “series of shock-arguments wrapped in self-help tropes”.
Speaking at the Independent Bath Literature Festival on Sunday, Chua said: “I am so surprised and outraged by the racist charge. I think it’s a group sensitivity issue. I do think 90 per cent of the people saying this haven’t read the book, they’ve just read a bad review.”
Chua, who was born in Illinois to Chinese parents, wrote The Triple Package with her husband Jed Rubenfeld, a fellow law professor at Yale.
Rubenfeld, who was also attending the festival, said: “For the last six weeks we’ve had to watch and listen as thousands of people were vilifying a book that had not yet been published, that they had not read, and we could not recognise as the book we had written.
“There’s a taboo around this, and people don’t like talking about it.”
The book focuses on eight communities considered to be outperforming others in the US: Lebanese, Nigerian, Iranian, Indian, Cuban and Chinese immigrants, as well as Jews and Mormons.
The Triple Package isolates three qualities shared by the communities: the sense of being exceptional or feeling superior, having insecurity, and impulse control.
The theories espoused in The Triple Package proved that the outperformance was “not genetic, it’s not racial and not biological”, Rubenfeld said. “It shows something is going on in the families and the cultures of the second generation kids.”
It was a “remarkable fact”, he said, “that in a tough time, with rising inequality, some groups are doing better than others. I’m talking about the children of poor and poorly educated parents experience rates of social mobility that are exceptional as compared to the rest of the country.”
Chua became an overnight celebrity in 2011 when The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of her Tiger Mother book under the headline “Why Chinese mothers are superior”. The book recounted her own experience as a strict parent of two daughters.