Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The sweet smell of success

I recently forwarded this NYT article, Item: Sisters Think Parents Did O.K., to a few friends, who in part responded with a cool as a cucumber response, "This is such b.s." while another ranted, "WHAT?!?!??!?> Fuck aplfidhj alkjfhas liyhg 09uepwier q umda09w8yt40wyufpzjUF(P"#UR Popishf osaeh foahic '!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The article describes a book that two sisters wrote called, Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too although I would have went with How to successfully eradicate your kids' childhood and win hardened hearts and deepfelt resentment from them but it's all ok because they're now professionals and you have plastic-y names of top-ranked schools on the rear window of your car and their salaries and their future children to look forward to.

I obviously veered toward the ranting end and then took a sharp turn at imagined violence. If I ever encounter these sweet, obedient, highly successful ladies in a dark alley with my gang of bums, writers, and artists, we will throw our Apple computers (real bummy) and empty wallets and fascinating personalities and stupid existential despair and fucking careless joie de vivre and passion straight at their well-kept heads and mess.up.their.hair. WATCH OUT.
These Korean American sisters belong to that phenomenal class of people that are the children of Asian immigrants. They got candy bars for reading books. They spent hours studying and were allowed little tv, little friend-time, little life. They played piano, won prizes. They were JUST LIKE ME, except I never got candy for reading books. I read them anyway. And I became the biggest bestest liar on earth. Anyways, the older one is a doctor and married to an orthopedic surgeon. The younger, originally more rebellious, wanted to be a writer, but eventually headed off to law school and is now an immigrations specialist in Philly. In response to nipping the writer dream, the younger Kim says she's happy and that "American parents will say, 'Do whatever makes you happy, even if the talent isn't there'...You need a reality check." What a fucking presumptuous and narrow-minded thing to say, deciding for others the definition of happiness and its intersection with reality, that one isn't smart enough or self-aware enough to realize in time what is within reach and what is reaching too far.
The book may be cutting down the stereotype that As. Ams are just a naturally smart and nerdy peoples... but adds little value in that vein. We sure are hard-working. We sure are obedient. It seems like a book that merely prescribes their definition of success and though that's all I imagine any sort of self-help or child-improvement advice offered in print is really supposed to do - the idea that such-and-such method worked for me, so it should work for you! Whee! – it is offering a school of thought that I think are very often borne out of a strange sort of smallness and limits. A place that emphasizes name, appearance, and material wealth as a sign of happy security and is rooted in parents who sacrifice so much, questionably too much, erasing parts of themselves, their own potentials, to place the heavy weight of their hopes on their children instead.
I don't care that the Kim sisters chose the lives they did. And though the book is aimed at a certain niche, I don't have faith in the kind of word which they are attempting to spread. And from the article's inclusion of stats like the percentage of Asians at top universities and higher household incomes, it seems that the book's potential audience is not the parents of kids who are doing poorly but those whose philosophies line up snugly with the sisters. The professional life! The scrubs, the suit and tie, and the big name schools, they set their little ones up for life, the ticket to please, run past GO and don't forget to collect your $$$. (No matter that less eminent schools can offer a good education.)
I had even more to say.. will add later.

8 comments:

walter said...

i don't know if this comment is relevant at all but: i don't believe, as you may, that "traditional asian values/ethic" (or whatever you want to call what the kims and others are talking about) puts more emphasis on materialism than other peoples.
i think the resentment of lots of asian americans for the way they were brought up is a responsibility of their own; ie, one can only blame their parents for the way they are or opportunities lost or whatever to a certain degree unless that person is going to completely deny their capacity for self-determination.
the crowing from both sides of the fence seems to me to just result from the fact that we all have no idea where we are and where we want to be

walter said...

i want to know if you wrote like that before you went to law school

Roger said...

Post: I don't really even know anymore. I think the organization's about the same, but I've definitely gotten wordier, despite efforts to do the opposite. Maybe it's because I put greater value on the precision of words now, to make sure my meaning is unambiguous.
Pre: Maybe; I can't tell. I think the organization's about the same, but my style has gotten wordier. I think it's because now I really want to make sure people know *exactly* what I mean.
Difference? But really, how much of it is truly not contrived?

yp said...

Ugh. Rachel Ray is NOT awesome. She gets an A for ANNOYING.
But anyhow, I just read this article and thought about being pissed off for a second, but then just found it funny. Hilarious. Really. AND, how do the Korean parents feel about their older daughter not being married to a Korean? Bet they aren't too happy about their non-fully 100% korean-blooded future grandchildren. But, well, they don't really talk about that part.

walter said...

yyyy operating on the premise of the book i doubt very much whether they care about her marrying a nonkorean. she is married to a white person (probably) and there is mainstream acceptance / approval and prestige in that.

me said...

Abboud doesn't sound like a white last name. She also seems to write medical thriller novels

walter said...

abboud sounds french to me and then for a second i thought her husband might be black but if he were there would be no book

Robyn said...

Hm...I didn't have a "traditional" Asian/Chinese upbringing, but I was still among the smarter students (oh, how that would change) up until middle school, when I moved to Taiwan and realized just about everyone was smart. And Chinese.
...not that Asian people are smarter than non-Asian people. Um. Hm. All I know is that I definitely didn't have super-strict parents. I remember in Taiwan, one of my friends had tutors and stuff. Around 8th/9th grade, She transformed from a irresponsible but overall good kid into a clubber who likes to get drunk, or so I've heard. Her parents weren't really strict but hey, neither were mine.
As I may have been considered smart before, today I'm truly among the least intellectual people that might be mistaken for being intellectual, and I have no goals. My mum thinks it has something to do with my dad not giving enough attention to me (or my brother, who is also rather goal-less).
..eh, I'm just blabbing.