But the reality, notes the book, co-written by Chua's husband and fellow Yale professor Jed Rubenfeld, is that "uncomfortable as it may be to talk about," some "religious, ethnic, and national-origin groups are starkly more successful than others." Those groups, according to the authors, are Mormons, Cuban exiles, Nigerian Americans, Indian Americans, Chinese Americans, American Jews, Iranian Americans and Lebanese Americans. And the reasons they excel, the book declares, is because of a basic "triple package" formula: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control.
A Publishers Weekly review calls the book a "comprehensive, lucid psychological study," which balances its findings with the downsides of the "triple package." And the authors address cultural stereotyping early on in the book, explaining, "Throughout this book, we will never make a statement about any group's economic performance or predominant cultural attitudes unless it is backed up by solid evidence, whether empirical, historical, or sociological. But when there are differences between groups, we will come out and say so." They add, "Group generalizations turn into invidious stereotypes when they're false, hateful, or assumed to be true of every group member. No group and no culture is monolithic."
But that hasn't quieted a slew of critics. Peter Kiang, director of the Asian American Studies Program at University of Massachusetts Boston, tells Yahoo Shine in an email, "I don't see any credible cultural superiority argument that can be made in this way…and assume that the authors' intentions are primarily meant to enhance marketing and publicity for their book." He adds, "The self-serving nature of the argument does seem to reveal the authors' own senses of superiority and insecurity, but not so much their impulse control."
And Ed Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, tells Yahoo Shine, "To generalize about some common characteristics is not a very productive way to talk about culture." Though he has not yet read the book, he adds, "I find it very troubling. As anthropologists, we have always avoided value judgments, or the idea that one cultural group is more exceptional than another."
Many on Twitter, meanwhile, have responded angrily to early coverage of the book.
Some choice phrases on Twitter: "racist," "awful," "racist psychopath," "idiot," "nonsense," "race baiting clap trap" and, finally, from the political organization MOMocrats, "Amy Chua trolls us all for college tuition for child number two/book number two. YAWN."
Bloggers are also mad. "It's rife with American exceptionalism and model minority thinking — the notion that anyone can succeed in America if they just act right, and those who don't will get what they deserve," notes Race Files blogger Soya Jung about the book's subtitle and marketing. Jung says she hasn't read the book and doesn't intend to, explaining, "My main problem with this is that it ignores the history of race in America," particularly when it comes to that of black Americans.
Prachi Gupta of Salon calls the new book Chua's "personal rant about her cultural superiority." Kenton Ngo, meanwhile, blogs, "It's too simplistic to read Chua's thesis as a form of racism. In fact, it's more sinister than that. Chua, her husband, and many other members of the 1% genuinely believe they got to where they were because they were somehow inherently better people…The worst part about this sordid saga is that both of them are tenured law professors at Yale. If anything exposes the dark, seedy underbelly of the elite views of their own superiority, it's that the people teaching future white-shoe lawyers and M&A sharks genuinely believe that some ethnic groups are simply not cut out for life. No wonder our social safety net is under attack."
Chua and Rubenfeld have not yet responded to the wave of criticism. But if the book's narrative is any indication, it won't be taken to heart. "Scorn," the duo writes in Chapter 4, "is a legendary motivator."