The back of the book section of the Atlantic Monthly is dominated by a group of writers -- Benjamin and Christina Schwarz, Caitlin Flanagan, and Sandra Tsing-Loh -- who have lived or worked in the San Fernando Valley, and whose worldviews mutually reflect and reinforce their Valley experience. Thus, I find them more perceptive about current trends in America than the vastly more numerous Boston-NY-DC intellectuals. (Here, for example, is Benjamin Schwarz's lovely review of historian Kevin Starr's Golden Dreams: California in the Age of Abundance: 1950-1963.)
Not surprisingly, the three ladies all have to have their say on Amy Chua.
Flanagan, who used to be the college admissions counselor at Harvard-Westlake on Coldwater Canyon (where I vaguely recall there being a couple of student suicides a half decade ago), writes:
The good mothers went to Brown, and they read The Drama of the Gifted Child, and they feel things very deeply, and they love their children in a way that is both complicated and primal, and they will make any sacrifice for them. They know that it takes a lot of time to nurture and guide a child—and also that time is fleeting, and that the bliss of having your kids at home is painfully short-lived—and so most of them have cut back on their professional aspirations in significant ways. The good mothers have certain ideas about how success in life is achieved, and these ideas have been sizzled into their brains by popularizers such as Joseph Campbell and Oprah Winfrey, and they boil down to this: everyone has at least one natural talent (the good mothers call it a “passion”), and creativity, effortless success, and beaucoup dinero flow not from banging your head against the closed door of, say, organic chemistry if you’re not that excited by it, but from dwelling deeply and ecstatically inside the thing that gives you the most pleasure. But you shouldn’t necessarily—or under any circumstances, actually—follow your bliss in a way that keeps you out of Yale. Because Yale is important, too! So important. The good mothers believe that their children should be able to follow their passions all the way to New Haven, Connecticut, and this obdurate belief of theirs is the reason so many of them (Obama voters, Rosa Parks diorama co-creators, gay-rights supporters, champions, in every conceivable way, of racial diversity and tolerance) are suddenly ready to demand restoration of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Because Amy Chua has revealed, in so many blunt and horrifying words, why the good mothers are getting spanked, and why it’s only going to get worse.
The whole thing is quite fair.