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Oct. 23rd, 2012

my shadow mocks me

All who tremble will tell of Your worth

I'm so glad I stuck around for 30. I still can't believe how much in my life has changed, how quickly God lifted me out of the valley from which I was only beginning to emerge one year ago.

I guess this testimony begins last winter. In January enrolled in Gotham Writing Workshop's TV Writing class and banged out my first TV script, a spec episode of the ABC sitcom Happy Endings, in 10 weeks. (I say "banged out" because I finished the first draft more quickly than anything I had ever written before or since, but in truth it took nigh-weekly all-day sessions at Argo Tea, at least a half-dozen drafts, and two months more of tweaks and revisions before I arrived at a finished product I was satisfied with.) My teacher urged the class to work our networks and reach out to anyone we could think of with even the most tangential connection to TV/film, since the industry is that difficult to penetrate. I knew about a former SI editor who was now writing for Nikita; I asked around for Albert’s contact information and cold-emailed him for advice.

At the same time, I started looking for jobs in California. My parents had progressed to outright asking me to move, after several years of just suggesting it. Over Christmas break my dad had fainted and was hospitalized for two days. I’ll never forget the sight of him slumped against the wall, unconscious with vomit on his shirt, and just feeling an enormous sense of gratitude that my brother and I were at home with him when it happened. In January my grandmother died. Thankfully my mother had already flown back to Taiwan to be by her side in her last couple of weeks, but this was after over three decades of living in a different country, with only annual or semi-annual visits.

I also changed churches. As a pastor’s kid, this is not something I do without much prayer and consideration. I continue to support The Journey’s God-ordained vision and mission, but I felt compelled to seek fellowship elsewhere. I began attending Trinity Grace, and on my third Sunday there learned that it was starting a new small group three blocks from my apartment. I don’t like to church-hop anyway, so I immediately decided to commit to TGC. I practiced Lent for the first time. (I think it's no coincidence that my Happy Endings spec was completed during the same period in which I was reading the Bible every morning and every night.) In just ten months I’ve made friends that I feel I have known for much longer. I love my TGC brothers and sisters so much. Also, my Asian network has grown by about 400%.

In May I began submitting my Happy Endings spec to various network fellowships and screenwriting competitions. Albert kindly gave me an hour of his time on the phone and offered to forward my spec to his agent. I was pretty sure that, at best, the spec would maybe get read by an intern to a junior assistant, but you try everything you can.

One day in early summer I was egregiously late to work (as usual), but this time I had missed two separate emergency meetings that had been called that morning. SI was doing staff reduction again, and was once again asking for volunteers. I had survived three or four rounds of job cuts in my eight years there. The first two times I was terrified of losing my job; the third time (around 2009) I sort of hoped the decision would be made for me. That same day, the father of one of my co-workers passed away somewhat suddenly. The next day, my mom called with the news that my dad had collapsed once again. My brother immediately made the one-hour drive from Irvine down to be with them. My dad would be hospitalized for the weekend. (Thankfully, the doctors were finally able to find the source of his low blood pressure; an ulcer in his intestines that had been slowly leaking blood over the past year. It was an easy treatment and his blood cell count has risen since.)

I’m very much like Gideon, asking for sign after sign to confirm God’s will. Thankfully, He is patient and knows just the assurances I need (such as the timing of the TGC small group formation). I volunteered to take a buyout. It was an easy decision but a bittersweet one; I had been with Sports Illustrated for as long as high school and college combined. I had one of the most enviable jobs in the world, and it really was that wonderful—high-quality work I could be proud of, and the most talented (and generous) colleagues one could ever hope for.

In mid-June, a few weeks after I decided to leave SI (my actual end date wasn’t until the end of the summer), Albert e-mailed me and said that his agent had not only read my script, but he liked it and wanted to see an original spec (a pilot episode from an original TV show concept). This was terrifying news, as I had written exactly one TV episode, ever, but it was also an amazing reassurance that maybe, just maybe, quitting my job and moving back to California to pursue screenwriting was not entirely ludicrous. In other words, maybe I am not one of those deluded singers whose audition American Idol airs as a joke.

I spent the rest of the summer panicking about packing but mostly enjoying my city during my favorite season. A few weeks before my move date, I received a letter from the Austin Film Festival, informing me that my Happy Endings spec had finished in the second round of competition. AFF is the most writers-oriented of the film festivals, offering dozens of panels and workshops with the industry’s most respected screenwriters, and my placement meant that I could attend for a discount.

In mid-September I left my beloved New York and moved back in with my parents. My New York friends have heard all the nervous only-half-joking Grey Gardens cracks I made in advance of the move, but in truth I feel privileged to have this time. I wept in gratitude during evening prayers with my dad one night, simply thankful for the opportunity to enjoy their company and make a positive impact on their daily lives, even if it’s just cleaning the kitchen, doing their taxes or lifting “weights” (bottles of water) to restore my dad’s muscle tone. And thanks to the terms of my (confidential) severance agreement, Time Inc. is paying me to do this!

I’m writing this in Austin now, where the AFF conference has just wrapped up. Even this is a mini-testimony: my friend Sarah (a former beneficiary of SI severance herself) is graciously putting me up for the week, I used a United voucher ($250 to wait just one hour to take the next flight out of Jacksonville? Sure!) for the airfare, saved 52% on a rental car with Priceline, got upgraded to a Prius because the last economy car was already rented, and on top of it all, Time Inc. is reimbursing me for my (discounted) festival badge as part of my “retraining allowance!” And thanks to the terms of my (confidential) severance agreement, Time Inc. is STILL paying me to do this!

Although I had an incredibly blessed life in New York, over the years my birthday had become a somewhat depressing reminder of my stagnation. Because of the sports calendar, even my admittedly awesome job’s assignments were the same year after year: BCS, Super Bowl, NCAA, NBA, college football previews, World Series, BCS, Super Bowl... (Although: another Giants World Series commemorative? Fingers crossed!) Every year I would tell myself, “Maybe next year my life will be different,” but it never was.

I don’t know if my terrified 29-year-old self would have dared to believe that, in just one year, I’d be spending my next birthday in Austin, Texas, meeting and learning from career idols like Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) and Hilary Winston (Community, Happy Endings), embracing and fully immersing myself in the identity and fellowship of the aspiring screenwriter. I’ve made new friends that I hope to see around LA when I get there. I can once again say that I am in the “low-“ of my age bracket. I still have all my teeth. And there’s still six weeks left in this magical year!

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Ephesians 3:14-21

Oct. 22nd, 2011

my shadow mocks me

Idol Youth

"Naked I come... naked I will depart."
Job 1:21


I realize that comparing leaving one's 20s to death is over the top. But anyone who has been around me for the past year knows that I have developed a pathologically excessive fear of turning 30, which will occur exactly 24 hours from this writing. Even now, it seems like a nightmare from which I will awaken, disturbed, until the fog of sleep fully dissipates and I realize that I am still 26, safe. There is still time.

It took me almost a full year to realize what my problem is, and I am still just beginning to figure it out.

When I was in high school, if you asked me whether I based my identity on academic achievement, I would have assured you it was not the case. And I really believed it, too. You don't spend much time thinking or worrying about grades when your report card looks the same every term. But during sophomore year in college I got my first C (WAY beyond an Asian F) and plunged immediately into an identity crisis. I thought that if Duke wasn't going to put me on academic probation, I should probably withdraw anyway, because I had clearly fooled everyone, myself included, that I deserved to be there. It was a ridiculous episode, but it taught me that I did define myself by how well I did in school, and it was a lesson I wouldn't have learned had that mark of self-worth not been taken away from me.

I never considered myself to be particularly vain, but I've realized I am. I've reveled in being twentysomething, ages at which accomplishments seem all the more impressive because of youth but a lack thereof can be excused for the same reason. Even in terms of physical appearance, girls in their twenties are the demographic deemed most attractive by society; therefore I was, too. All of this is a comfort zone I've relished for a full decade, and the fact that I don't want to give it up proves all the more why I need to.

This has been the hardest year of my life so far, and not just because of the looming milestone. This year I burned myself out worrying about so many things: my parents' finances, my career progress, my parents' health, my relationship prospects, my parents' involvement in my relationship prospects. In the process, I am learning just how unduly dependent I have become on all these factors in determining my state of joy and my self-worth:

Achievement: By now, nearly everyone from my graduating class who went to medical or law school has completed his or her degree and is practicing. Not that I have ever considered becoming a doctor for the right reasons, but even if I wanted to, at 30 that ship will have largely sailed. The right reasons would include having a primary passion for medicine and law and wanting to serve the community through the administration of those disciplines. The wrong reasons are in order to maintain my valedictorian status at the head of the class. I have been tempted by the wrong reasons.

Approval: But that impulse to amass an inordinate amount of higher education or attain some sort of impressively stamped business card or white coat isn't entirely because of competitive ambition and pride. I also occasionally think about how disappointed my 10th grade chemistry teacher, who recommended me for a Silicon Valley scholarship, would be if he found out I didn't go into math, science or engineering. I realize that this is insane. But I've thought it. If I ever manage to change jobs, I also dread the thought of giving notice at SI, because will they think I only stuck around long enough to gain enough experience on my resume in order to take my talents to South Beach? Will they be annoyed that I'm not staying in sports? On the other hand, I want to leave SI not only because I want to write about other subjects, but also because my family and their friends don't have much use for sports journalism and think I'm not living up to my potential.

Family: I feel a lot of guilt for living so far away from my parents and brother for so long. Because of that, I try to compensate in other ways, trying to be an active participant in managing my parents' finances and healthcare, and trying to prove that I still belong to them, even if I am out of sight. This all came to a head with the arranged relationship that I've already written about before. I hadn't had such a blowout with both of my parents in about six years. We've made up, but this time I hope I have changed. I love my parents and my brother more than any other people on Earth, but respecting my parents does not have to mean obeying or even pleasing them. They will always be an integral part of my life, but I do not owe them my decisions. I need to extricate their will from God's.

Relationship: I received a lot of messed-up advice about relationships from my older relatives during this summer's debacle, and even though I worry about the veracity in parts sometimes, I never really bought the full argument. I still believed/hoped that God, knowing the type of person He created me to be, would bless me with a relationship in which I could fully open my heart to someone else. I even had someone in mind. Literally at the eleventh hour the Lord has revealed one final idol I had buried deep, by taking this person and placing him firmly off-limits. The timing is too bitterly apt for it to be anything other than a lesson from God, who showers me with tough love.

And so I enter a new decade with all of these safety nets I had knitted for myself torn away. It is frightening. I've only just begun applying for new jobs, but so far there have been no bites, and I don't know how long this process will take. Even though they are currently avoiding the subject, I know that my parents are disappointed in the choices I've made since college. And I truly have no romantic prospects on the horizon, no friendships at the moment that I can daydream and hope will turn into something more.

But I am not unmoored. And I'm not even speaking of the steady, prestigious job I've had for seven years, or my stable of wise and supportive friends. Those are blessings in abundance to the one thing -- Christ -- who is everything. I take Christ for granted so much because he has always been around. But now that it seems like the wind has untethered everything I had looked to as anchors in my life, suddenly his steadfastness and constancy appear in sharp relief. I am thankful that he has given me the chance to explore the true meaning of this verse:

"I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
Philippians 3:8

Jul. 3rd, 2011

my shadow mocks me

My favorite Dickinson

A DOOR just opened on a street—
I, lost, was passing by—
An instant’s width of warmth disclosed,
And wealth, and company.

The door as sudden shut, and I,
I, lost, was passing by,—
Lost doubly, but by contrast most,
Enlightening misery.

~Emily Dickinson

Jul. 2nd, 2011

my shadow mocks me

Adrift

Is it progress
if the current carries you?

Close your eyes
and feel the wind whisper warm into your skin
Hear it rustle the reeds along the banks
If you extend your arm you will brush against them
like a hand drawn across harp strings.

Bob up and down
Rock back and forth
When you open your eyes
don’t be surprised
if you are mired in swamp grass, or
far afield from where you thought you would drift.

A large ship passes to your right.
Its massive bulk blocks your perspective, pushes you backward.
You don’t know whether you are moving or
Being moved.

Examine your surroundings carefully.
How can you be sure that you have traveled at all?
All this time
You thought you had covered so much ground.
But as it turns out
You are stationary.
Everything else was doing the passing.
Everyone else is doing the leaving.

The difference between motion and locomotion
is locus; without a destination
movement is meaningless.
This river could be a whirlpool.
A slow, inexorable circling of the drain.

“I love you,” he said
before he walked away.
“But you’ve never knocked on a door in your life.
You only walk through the ones that are already open.”

May. 11th, 2011

my shadow mocks me

Rebutting the Tiger Mother: Live!

It's easier to think of Amy Chua as a Dragon Lady villain, but after hearing her speak at Time Inc. tonight, it is perhaps more accurate to say that she is mostly self-deluded. I'm not trying to be insulting—I genuinely think she has not fully thought through certain issues related to Asian and/or Asian-American identity and perception, and moreover, I don’t think she realizes how much she doesn't know.

She repeated two corrections throughout the discussion: that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is "clearly satirical, hysterical and zany" (she described most of the scenes in her book as “zany”), and that it is "a memoir, not a manual."

To the former point, I suspected as much even after the first chapter. It's just so over the top. But I can understand why some might have trouble discerning the "joke." For some people, it plays into suspicions and paranoias they already have about Asian families. Why wouldn't those folks take a Chinese mother's account of her radical parenting methods at face value? For others, Chua's "anecdotes" trigger real, traumatic experiences of their own. Sorry that those past abuse victims can't take a joke!

Chua seemed to think there's only one explanation: "The book is tricky, it operates on 12 different levels, and it’s satirical. You either get the book or you don't. Some don't—they read things literally." I guess that must be my problem. I lack to ability to grasp complexity and I don't understand satire. I thought Colbert went to Capitol Hill because he really didn't want Mexican fingerprints on his tomatoes. I think Bruce Willis should sue Community for that paintball episode where they totally ripped off Die Hard. I wish my friends had told me I didn't have a sense of humor! I feel so naked without one!

Chua told us she thought she would come off "less like Mommie Dearest and more like David Sedaris" (whose name she would invoke two more times over the course of the discussion). She referred to one of Nabokov's nonfiction works (sorry, I didn't write down the title) and Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius as models for her own memoir. Truly, I am humbled by her presence in that company. Clearly, Amy Chua is this generation's Jonathan Swift, and I have simply been too obtuse and literal to understand her! I am obviously being literal right now! Writing like Sedaris is easy! Any lawyer can do it! I am a dummy for not realizing her comedic genius!

Or maybe I am too Asian, which she says generally means "meek, humorless and uncreative." In contrast, Chua called her own voice "defiant" and "outlaw." She said her book is essentially the anti-Joy Luck Club, which is all about victimization and oppression, whereas "my book is a PROUD book. I'm proud of what I am. I refuse to let others define me."

Chua is clearly proud of her ethnic heritage and has not at all bought into cultural stereotypes. Referring to her adolescence, she said she experienced "the whole Asian-American thing: glasses, braces, greasy hair." Hey, thanks for reducing that whole Asian-American thing, Amy Chua! You're such a wonderful and qualified spokesperson for our people! (Am I getting the hang of sarcasm yet?)

Chua told us she considered some sort of legal action when she found out that her book was being marketed in China as a parenting guide from a Yale law professor (I’m not sure that’s legally actionable? But then again, I’m no law professor). She said that in China her methods are uncontroversial because the people there tend to have “an inability to convey love—they don’t have psychiatry, counseling” or other such resources available to them. I need an entirely separate post to unpack the racism in that thought.

Chua asserted that “there’s a strong theme of rebellion throughout the book,” and it wasn’t just from her daughters. When she was a teenager herself, she rebelled against her Tiger Dad, who wanted her to go to college in-state, by forging his signature to apply to a school on the other side of the country. “I’d barely heard of it—Harvard.” (Cue delighted gasps and spontaneous applause from the rapt audience.) That story doesn’t even make sense. First of all, what child of a self-respecting “Tiger” parent didn’t have every issue of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges since, at the latest, seventh grade? And she was in Berkeley in 1980, not New Guinea in 1660. And why would you apply to a school you’d barely heard of? You know who makes coy understatements about that college in Boston? Well, not in Boston, but nearby. No, not Tufts.

Chua insisted that Battle Hymn is a memoir, one in which she took creative liberties (like Sedaris, but not like Frey, I presume). Fine. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t profited greatly from her book being promoted and received as a manual. Even the tagline on the back cover belies her protestations: HOW TO BE A TIGER MOTHER. (Chua speculated that her publishers might have been trying to “give her a taste of her own medicine.”)

She tries to have it both ways. “I was a very strict mother and I raised two independent daughters,” she told us. But she did not raise her daughters to be “independent.” The objective of her strict parenting was obedient children. It’s wonderful that her daughters seem to be well-adjusted and talented young individuals—I genuinely mean that—but which is it? Is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother a self-deprecating confessional of a Type A mom’s come-uppance, or is it a triumphant recording of her accomplishments?

There seemed to be a number of contradictions in Chua’s thinking. “The act of the book is profoundly ‘un-Asian’ because it’s rebellious,” she told us. (Again, so many unsubstantiated declarations about what is and isn’t Asian.) So writing the book was “un-Asian,” even though the book touts “Asian” values? Because despite eventually letting her younger daughter quit violin and take up tennis, Chua doesn’t outright disavow her Tiger method, and she has said she would mostly do the same thing again.

When asked what answers she intended her book to give, Chua responded (again) that since Battle Hymn is a memoir, she shouldn’t be required to provide answers*, but she was game to give it a shot. With the disclaimer that it was “a cliché, which is Western” (clichés are Western? Or what’s to follow is a cliché?), she said that the lesson of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is “pursue your passion.” She added that this value has been cheapened by parents who let their kids take up and quit hobbies at a whim, and I agree. “Finding your passion requires hard work,” Chua told us. “It took me almost forty years to figure out what I loved doing.”

And that’s when it clicked for me. AMY CHUA IS A LATE BLOOMER. In fact, like all of us, she is still figuring things out. It’s just that she had the (Western?) initiative and confidence to publish a book that hit the cultural zeitgeist, and she is now being regarded as an expert on Chinese parenting, or, at the very least, a spokesperson in a milieu devoid of diverse Asian-American voices.

Chua's first book, World on Fire, published in 2002, is apparently about, in part, ethnic resentments between privileged minorities and majority groups that feel threatened by them. She says she didn't initially realize a connection between this past academic work and her memoir, but now sees that... both are about "inverting the weaknesses" of the Asian-American stereotype. I couldn’t figure out what she meant by that, but I was surprised that her epiphany had nothing to do with the cultural implications of her current bestseller.

At the Time Inc. discussion she claimed that her memoir is about “what I see as the strengths of East and West,” a few minutes after she cited a problem about “false dichotomies.” She also assured us, “I wonder about and have real concerns about the model minority stereotype.” I think (I hope) that in five or ten years, Amy Chua will see the irony in all of the above, and maybe then, be able to produce a truly nuanced handling of Asian-American dynamics.

 
*On the contrary, Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother said that “memoir is, or at least is supposed to be, a demanding genre. It requires the author not just narrate his or her life but reflect on it.”

May. 10th, 2011

my shadow mocks me

Rebutting the Tiger Mother: Semantics

I think one of my biggest issues with Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Chua's problematic nomenclature. Leaving aside the grossly fetishistic overtones of Tiger becoming a descriptor for Chinese (come on, that crap is so last decade), I really think that Chua's decision to call her parenting method "Chinese" is irresponsible, and her opening disclaimer is a complete cop-out.

The best way I can explain my thinking is by doing a find-and-replace on her disclaimer with another prevailing cultural parenting stereotype, one that is completely negative and absolutely offensive:

ORIGINAL:
I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I recently met a supersuccessful white guy from South Dakota and after comparing notes we decided that his working-class father had definitely been a Chinese mother. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise.

REPLACEMENT:
I’m using the term “black father” loosely. I recently met an unemployed Indian guy from South Dakota and after comparing notes we decided that his white-collar mother had definitely been a black father. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some fathers of African-American descent, almost always born in the Hamptons, who are not black fathers, by choice or otherwise.

Do you see my point? Chua argues that "there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting." Sure, and there are probably even more studies showing, statistically, that there are more black than Asian single-parent households, or that there is a greater frequency of deadbeat dads among African-Americans than any other racial group. That doesn't make it right for you to write a memoir about YOUR deadbeat dad and sell it as a commentary about "black fatherhood" in general.

No matter how nuanced the author's concluding argument may be, there's no getting around the fact that she is exploiting a stereotype in order to promote the book. For every individual who eventually gets around to reading the whole thing, there are dozens if not hundreds more who only skim the headline (or the sensationalistic WSJ excerpt) and come away with their prejudices reinforced.

And, in the case of this book, that not only further alienates people of Asian descent, but may also exacerbate the tensions in a climate in which people are already paranoid about a driven, dispassionate (read: inhuman/e) foreign culture come to steal their jobs, their children's college berths, and their very livelihoods. That may sound like a stretch, but it really doesn't take much to trigger a hate crime.

Not to mention, Chua's claim that her parenting method is "Chinese" is in many cases wrong, and also flat-out racist. I'll continue to address the former in chapter commentaries, and as for the latter:
  1. I used to be kind of proud of being a Model Minority. Like, Asians were special because their stereotype was a compliment. (I hadn't yet learned the ones about being cheap, driving and dogs.) Now I know that any judgment of your individual character or tendencies based on your ethnicity or racial background is racism in action. This really should be an obvious point.
  2. You know how some people say, after a joke, "It's not racist because I'm Asian/black/Hispanic!"? Yeah, that's not actually true (although I've used the excuse and probably will again -- I'm not saying one shouldn't tell race-based humor; I'm just saying that we should call it what it is). Just because Chua is Chinese herself doesn't render her innocent of cannibalizing the Chinese culture from which she purports to derive her parenting methods. Also, for all of Chua's attempts at "humor" (maybe???), Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is no Bossypants. If only.
my shadow mocks me

Rebutting the Tiger Mother: Chapter 1

Tomorrow Amy Chua is doing a Q&A at Time Inc. for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I already have many strong opinions about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother from media coverage alone, but I know I'm not being truly fair until I've read the actual book myself. Fortunately, Google Books has most if not all of it online, so herein, my chapter-by-chapter reactions.

Chapter 1: The Chinese Mother

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereo-typically [sic] successful kids.... Well, I can tell them, because I've done it.

Nope. Your first-born is graduating from high school this year. A real Chinese mother knows her job isn't done until either she or her kid stops breathing.

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • ...

  • get any grade less than an A [Weaksauce. Any grade less than an A+, or 100 percent, should be unacceptable. An A- is an Asian B. A B is an Asian Fail.... Okay, Chua makes that point a page later: the Chinese mother believes that... an A-minus is a bad grade]

  • ...

  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin [This is just dumb. Like languages, learning multiple instruments can only enhance your mastery of each one. And isn't Yo-Yo Ma the Original Chinese Musical Prodigy? He isn't exactly playing the banjo at Carnegie.]


I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely.

Then stop using the term "Chinese mother."

The Chinese mother believes that... you must never compliment your children in public.

Not that that other breakthrough Asian-American author Amy necessarily got it all right, but a lot of the drama in The Joy Luck Club was fomented by Chinese moms bragging about their daughters in front of each other. It was not a rare occurrence in Amy Tan's books, and neither is it in real life.

Overall thoughts so far

Chapter 1 was short and startlingly unsubtle. Its blanket statements (... roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt [that parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun]) are not excused by Chua's disclaimer that she is using the terms "Chinese mothers" and "Western parents" loosely. Hers are the kinds of lazy, broad generalizations I would make in cultural studies papers the night before they were due, and I'm surprised the precision and discipline she must employ as a professor at Yale Law does not seem to have influenced the writing of this memoir.

Some passages made me wonder if Chua is going for satire: My Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough. But Chua, at least so far, lacks the artistic finesse, the natural comedic instinct, to make that clear. I guess that's the type of thing one learns from being in a school play, one of the activities a Tiger Mother forbids her children to do.

Jan. 1st, 2011

my shadow mocks me

Obligatory New Year's post

If there is to be no progress on the relationship front, then by Jove I'd better get SOMETHING started with this so-called "writing" "ambition" of mine, because I will be 30 by the end of this year.

I doubt I'll manage to blog every day, but at least this journal will serve as a public record for shaming myself into action.

A journey of a thousand miles always starts with a shitty first draft.

Dec. 23rd, 2010

my shadow mocks me

Road Trip Transcript

DANIEL: (driving) Hey, does SI have themed conference rooms?

ME: (in the backseat) What do you mean?

DANIEL: Like, does each conference room have a name?

ME: No.

DANIEL: Then how do you reserve a room for a meeting?

ME: I dunno, we just send around an e-mail that says, "Go to the big conference room in the middle at one o'clock" or whatever.

DANIEL: Oh. Well, my new company just held a contest to come up with a theme for naming our conference rooms.

ME: Yeah? What won?

DANIEL: They're all gonna be named after the "Operation" game.

ME: Oh, that's cool! Like "Adam's Apple"?

DANIEL: Yup, and "Funny Bone."

DAD: (waking up in the passenger's seat) How about "Hysterectomy"?

Nov. 14th, 2010

my shadow mocks me

向主歡呼

Taroko National Park
眾山跪拜
Mountains bow down

Farglory
眾海洋歡呼
and the seas will roar

歌頌主的聖名
at the sound of your name

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