How Much Is the Tiger Mother Fibbing About, Anyway?

Tiger Mother

Amy Chua’s Long March of book publicity keeps going, thanks to that inflammatory

Wall Street Journal excerpt

this month. Time magazine’s E-Z-assemble

cover feature

—currently No. 1 on the magazine’s most-e-mailed list, with its sidebar at No. 2—about the parenting controversy (or successful feat of parenting controversialism) included one parenthetical that was not unprecedented in the Chua coverage, but seemed unusually bald:

There’s no doubt that Chua’s methods are extreme (though her stories, she hints, may have been slightly exaggerated for effect).

Oh? So is there no doubt, or is there doubt? Since the original excerpt came out, Chua has been backpedaling—borrowing

Charles Barkley’s

I-was-misquoted-in-my-autobiography defense to blame the Journal for the sensational (and effective) nature of the excerpt, emphasizing the part of her memoir where her younger daughter rebels against her, and letting reporters see that her daughters are in fact permitted to have sleepovers and that the elder one even has a boyfriend.

In what way, again, is Chua more of a hardass than lots of other graduate-degree-holding upper-middle-class striver parents? Well, because she said she was more of a hardass. Or…did she?

The New York Times


Her narration, she said, was meant to be ironic and self-mocking — “I find it very funny, almost obtuse.”

What does “ironic” mean, here? There’s no such thing as exaggerating for effect, when the effect is the substance. What’s off-putting about Chua isn’t her narrative tone (well, except for the awkwardly veiled hostility toward her higher-achieving husband). It’s her narrative.

Did Chua really scream at a seven-year-old girl all weekend long and not let her take bathroom breaks till she mastered a difficult piano piece? Or did she just order her daughter to practice a few extra hours? Did she threaten to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals, or not? Is this just the story of the tough parent Chua likes to imagine she could have been—like

James Frey

, but with made-up stories of abusing children instead of substances?