Tiger Father [Today's News Poem, January 13, 2011]
The last time I saw you, you raved at my mother
And called her a bitch, but you never did eat her.
You said in Korea that dogs were for dinner
To justify kicking my puppy down stairwell.
You held up a knife, but I cried—yes the weakling
You thought you had sired—so disgusted, you left us
For weeks on a mission for pussy and Mah Jong,
But managed to keep your position at Bechtel.
I thought I'd gain insight by reading your bookshelf,
A mess of the titles they'd banned in Korea.
There's Nietzsche, there's Marx; both extremists and honkys:
One said to conform—said the other, "surpass them."
You drove to the beach with us, promising closure.
You closed it, you bought me a motorized tchotchke;
A GI Joe tank made of plastic—a motor
Of nothing—though later I'd learned from my brother
Your father disowned us, as hybrids and mongrels.
And later, I'd learn from my mother, your daring—
An expert at leaping through trains that were moving.
A master of running—you ran from the commies
At eight, up and down the peninsula fleeing
Explosions and bullet-brained leatherneck soldiers.
At eight, I had run near the cliffs with my brothers—
A fatass with glasses and fists full of pebbles
I threw at some kids—did I gain your approval
That day on the cliffs near the city of Francis?
If not, I am waiting; I'm eight and I'm waiting
For black and white you with a face that looks haunted.
A black and white you in an album that faded;
That stood at attention with classmates and teachers.
You left me a message all scribbled with Hangul,
Your face in a war-zone—so gaunt from you starving:
It cannot get worse than this—life is just cruelty.
"Then I saw a tweet by Jen Wang, who blogs at Disgrasian about her own "hardass Asian mom," in which she also noted a disconnect between the Journal story and the book from which it was supposedly excerpted. When I reached out to her for details, she explained, "The book isn't a how-to manual, as the Journal excerpt would have you believe -- it's a memoir. As such, you'll see some truth in it, and you'll also see glaring blind spots and a sometimes-woeful lack of self-examination. That truth, instead of making you hate Chua, will cause you to reflect on your own upbringing -- and your own parenting style, good and bad. And I think this is especially important for Asian Americans who feel that they were parented Chua-style, and are bitter about it -- that is to say, most of us.""
—Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate Thursday, January 13, 2011
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