Thursday, October 20, 2005

The sweet smell of success plus kimchi

To add on/respond to previous entry and comments:

Perhaps I could have made clearer, though it was probably rather transparent to begin with, that my very intense reaction to the article is due to my own severe upbringing. I had a stricter version of their life, the pressures of which I look back and presently upon with very negative feelings, which cause me to be very very wary and disturbed when I see similar situations (which actually don't number very highly) in other Korean families that I know.

I had hoped that my last paragraph implied that instead of speaking for all asian americans everywhere, I could but speak for myself. And though I do think the question, as Roger brings up, of whether the book is a good idea, is a valid one, my issue is not with the book itself, but with the attitudes within. A book does not force itself upon people and will find an audience in those who are interested in reading it. And even while I may find the stuff within the covers problematic, I cannot say this goes or doesn't go for anybody else.

As WHC says, "resentment of lots of asian americans for the way they were brought up is a responsibility of their own." But I cannot escape the fact that this does put an incredible burden on the child to sort things out and be very understanding and yet self-aware. You can't really argue with the good intentions of parents. This isn't a case where a mom is parasitically living off your body to live out their own childhood dreams to be a cheerleader (because she is a witch. and okay all my cultural references lead back to buffy). They are like heads of state. The children's security is national priority, and this always leads back to money, which then branches out into all relative paths of career, school, etc. (And that's what I meant by the emphasis on material wealth, not materialism.) And then they sort of retire and then the children come into their own as their own ruler, and then have to go around matching and fixing goals and ambitions. Ok maybe it was a bad metaphor to begin with; it's falling apart.


Robyn said...

As for this bit:
- Why can’t I do such and such fun thing?
- Because I said so.
- Can’t you tell me why?
- It’s enough that I said so.
- That’s not a real answer.
- You are not my daughter anymore. Pack your things and move out.
That reminds me of something my dad tried to pull. I wanted to go to a Beck concert (the second in a time span of a week) and he suddenly decided I MUST BE PUNISHED, because I'm such a bad person for wanting to go to so many concerts (uh huh). My mum thought it was ridiculous. And I did go to the concert...anyway. My mum and dad don't go together at all.
Your mum sounds interesting.

todd said...

Ok, so I'm not Asian, but I'm honorary Asian enough to say a few things (engineer and all - I used to have a card my roommate gave me). I saw the review of the book in the NYT as well, and found it interesting enough to show my wife (who is Asian - see, I wasn't lying about the honorary thing). And then I read all of this discussion, which leads me to the following points:
1. We love Janet, especially in all your wordplay glory.
2. Do you feel that this issue (overbearing parents) is limited to the Asian/Korean immigrant families, or extends to other immigrant nationalities/cultures as well?
3. In the NYT article the authors say something like "we're not smart, just trained well"... aside from the whole nurture/nature debate, I think it's kind of rediculous to promote a book as a "learn how to get your kid into the best med schools, even if they're dumb!" ploy. Being successful (in terms of career/money) != being happy. I wonder if in the book there's a cross-referenced study on the incidence in depression in children in these high-pressure families, or whether that's a point they conveniently left out.
4. That all being said, if I had to pick to become either a super-overbearing parent or a "super caring do whatever you want if it makes you happy even if you end up in jail" one, I'd opt for the former, wouldn't you? They're both extremes, yes, and thus neither is optimal, but still something to think about.