I’ve been struggling to write this since Amy Chuaâ€™s book reading Friday night, which brought back a lot memories for me.
The Yale professorâ€™s latest work, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” has been getting a lot of ink lately (both digital and print). The memoir, her third book, is about her experience as a strict parent raising two daughters â€“ and her views on parenting as they relate to being Chinese. Since it was published in January, it has been controversial — garnering positive and negative attention from readers.
On Friday, Chua read to a group of us at the Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, and as she did, it triggered memories of disappointing my dad.
He isnâ€™t Chinese, but as a Thai father with high-expectations and the kind of restrictive parenting style Chua describes in her book â€“ no grade less than an A, no sleepovers with American friends, nothing less than No. 1 is acceptable â€“ it touched a nerve. As a rebellious eldest child caught between two cultures, it reminded me of the epic clashes we had. His rules and overbearing personality made me feel helpless and enraged me. I could relate so well to Chua’s younger daughter, who brought her mother to the brink.
But, the book reading also gave me a chance to reflect on that, too, and to try to understand my father from another perspective, of a parent trying to do his best.
After years of getting my buttons pushed by not living up to his expectations of me, I’ve made peace with my father — and who I am.
And that night, I saw Chua in a similar way: human, fallible â€“ a parent struggling to do right by her kids, and who’s still learning. I realized that as much as she pushed her daughters to be better, she realized that she could be better, too. And although she came across as somewhat defensive to the criticism and the attacks on her parenting style and book, I saw her offer humility, too.
“This is a story of how I was humbled by a 13-year-old,” she said.
Some of the harshest criticism of Chua came after the Wall Street Journal published a book excerpt, which she said ran counter to the lessons of being a real parent with a real child who does not always conform to the rigid rules she wrote about at the beginning of the book. But, she said, the excerpt, independent of the end of the book, was a caricature of what she had been.
She told those of us in this packed, standing-room only basement that she wrote her book in a “moment of crisis,” and it turned out to be a coming of age memoir — for her. She acknowledged she was raised by “extremely strict, but extremely loving immigrant parents who had very high expectations, coupled with a deep foundation of unconditional love,” and she hoped to pass on the same model to her own children.
But, she said, she realized, almost too late, that her methods would not work on her younger daughter, who like her, “was a firebrand from the very beginning.”
This daughter, she said, was her comeuppance who locked horns with her from day one until they had a showdown.
As I previously mentioned, I get that dynamic. My father and I started arguing when I was in the second grade — over long division tables — and I think we both realized right then that I would not be the obedient, quiet daughter he wanted. The tension built up for years, reaching a crescendo on a family vacation to California when I was a teenager, with us almost coming to blows over having to replace a ripped contact lens for me.
Those were some dark days. But light eventually broke through. I went away to college — at least a plane ride away.
What I got from Friday night’s reading:
Chua wants, more than anything, for her kids to be confident, happy, social, independent and close to her. And she thinks she’s succeeded, but not without a considerable amount of challenges. “The message is not, I don’t love you,â€ she said. â€œIt’s not about grades, but to help your child be the best you can be. And it’s almost always better than what they think they can be.”
The message, she said, was: “I’m not going to let you give up.”
And maybe in his own way, thatâ€™s exactly what my father was trying to tell me.
The chapter is blessed with a dedicated core of active members who see the value of this community. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of journalists, promote diversity and support media entrepreneurship. We focused our resources in 2010 on outreach, training and mentoring â€“ and you responded.
Last yearâ€™s Lunar New Year fund-raiser at Tea Palace set a new attendance record, with more than 70 attendees. The chapter board was so pleased with the turnout, weâ€™ve decided to hold our 2011 event there on Jan. 29. Save the date!
One of our key strategies in 2010 was partnering with other organizations to broaden our reach and expand local benefits to members.
The boards of SPJ Western Washington and AAJA Seattle agreed to offer each groupâ€™s members reciprocal rates on events to increase attendance and diversity. That gave our AAJA Seattle members access to SPJâ€™s fall training series and freelancerâ€™s workshop at SPJ member rates.
AAJA Seattle also signed a partnership agreement with 911 Media, a non-profit provider of multimedia training, which provided our members with discounted rates and fellowships for students and professionals. Our first recipient of the fellowship was Carina del Rosario, a freelance photographer, who applied the fellowship toward a class in audio recording.
President: Sanjay Bhatt, reporter, The Seattle Times
VP, Events: Caroline Li, editor, EarthWalkers.com
VP, Programs: Owen Lei, reporter, KING 5
Treasurer: Mai Hoang, reporter, The Yakima Herald-Republic
Secretary: Venice Buhain, editor, Bellevue Patch
As you know, our National Board Representative Athima Chansanchai was elected to AAJA National Secretary to fill the remaining term of Doris Truong, who was elected AAJA National President. The chapter board is discussing its next step to fill Timaâ€™s seat for the remainder of her term.
Speaking of national AAJA affairs, it’s been aÂ challenging year. Fiscal crises threatened AAJA’s future, and all chapters, including ours, gave funds to stabilize the organization.
We can all be proud of our AAJA National President Sharon Chan and AAJA National Treasurer Candace Heckman for steering the national organization through the crisis and making tough decisions. Today AAJAÂ has a strong executive director and is on steadier fiscal ground.
And in what could become an annual tradition, Sharon, Candace and Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman, who is also an AAJA Seattle member,Â organized an all-mediaÂ Holiday Scoop party at Nectar that benefitted the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship endowment.
I’d like to thank everyone who helped support the chapter in accomplishing its goals this year. Our event chairs deserve huge kudos: Caroline Li (Lunar New Year Banquet), Nicole Tsong andÂ Mai Hoang (student workshops), Mai HoangÂ and Venice Buhain (scholarship application and judging),Â Karen Johnson (innovation salon),Â and Naomi Ishisaka (scholarships reception).
Our AAJA Seattle community is strong. We canÂ meet any challenge byÂ working together. Our continued success rests on your support, so please renew your membership, bring a colleague to our events and tell us how youâ€™d like to get involved!
[Mary Pauline Diaz, far left, with fellow Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winners Katelin Chow and Peter Sessum and AAJA co-founder Bill Sing during the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles.]
Mary Pauline Diaz, a 2010 Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winner, spent her summer writing for the Seattle Weekly. As a recipient of AAJA Seattle’s Founders Scholarship, Diaz she also was able to attend the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles in August. As AAJA Seattle’s student members return to school, Diaz, a junior at Seattle University, shares why she returns with a renewed confidence in her career path.
It’s easy to feel daunted and overwhelmed by the changing state of the journalism, especially at this point in time. But at the AAJA National Convention, the language and the feeling definitely exuded a renewed hope. As a nervous convention first-timer and forward-minded student, it was refreshing to be around so many journalists who wereÂ excited about the future of journalism, who had enough passion to propel themselves past hurdles or who were gearing up for the hurdles they were facing: unemployment for seasoned vets, first forays into a fickle field for students and recent grads and the utter volatility of the industry for everyone.
And that’s not the only good news. The good news (and I think this is good news) is that journalism as we know it is being turned on its head. I jotted down a few quotes from some convention workshops that totally threw me for a loop, but they indicate exactly how journalism itself is being redefined and regenerated.
Get excited. The time in front of us is the perfect time to experiment, reexamine our roles and position yourself for the upper hand in the market.
“New media, digital media, perhaps even journalism don’t really apply as terms for what I do.” – John Bracken, Director of New Media at The Knight Foundation
Let go of those traditional conceptions of your job description. Regardless of what Bracken himself does, every journalist has to face the transitioning ambiguity of what journalism is, what media is and what audiences consider their sources of information.
“Audio is really a visual medium.” – Sora Newman, Senior Trainer at NPR
Though every format and every story is unique, the richest part of a converging media market is indeed the convergence. It’s not just about the parts sitting beside each other but the way they meld and speak to each other. Newman and the others on the Audio Storytelling for Print Journalists panel challenged participants to look beyond the verbal portion of audio stories and to capture the ambient sounds and bits that paint that “picture” for the listener.
“Content is king, but collaboration is queen. If you think of a chessboard, the king is the most important, but, let’s be honest, the queen is most powerful.” – David Cohn, Spot.us
The most hopeful thing to hear over and over again at the convention was the call to collaborate, a particular theme of the hyperlocal news panel featuring Cohn. Especially as citizen journalism grows and culture’s demand for transparency and immediacy grows, the spirit of collaboration not only grows in importance but in creativity. Spot.us, for instance, uses a unique model of collaborative funding â€” freelancers can pitch stories, and community members can pitch in the cash.
“It’s not about what the staff is doing. It’s about what the reader is experiencing.” – Wasim Ahmad, Multimedia Journalist and Assistant Professor at Stonybrook University
So often we get caught up in what all of this change means for our jobs and our futures, but journalists should really be mindful of what the changing media landscape means for the audience â€” not only in how it will change the way people receive information but also the way people interact with information and what they choose to do with it.
“The business of journalism is the business of relationships.” – Raja Abdulrahim, Staff Writer at Los Angeles Times
“You’re not just a journalist. You’re a human being.” – Eiji Yamashita I put these two together because they pull at a similar issue. So often do we, in the pressure to remain objective, lose sight of the communities and people who are affected the most. It’s not impossible to be both empathetic and fair, and perhaps empathy is intrinsic to justice. Our work as journalists are strengthened by nurturing relationships and trust with the people around us.
“This is not news in one point in time. I want to tell a story with an arc.” – Christopher Wong, Filmmaker of Whatever It Takes Especially with tools like Twitter, there’s a lot of hype around up-to-the-minute bites (or bytes) of news, quick snippets of information. And the reality is, there’s definitely a demand for that in this fast-paced world. Yet as we reimagine different ways to make the news, we gain more opportunities to harness the power of a compelling story, something that isn’t just informative in an intellectual and utilitarian sense but something that speaks to the bigger picture.