NR Digital

Born into Anxiety

by Kevin D. Williamson

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld (Penguin, 304 pp., $27.95)

Amy Chua of “Tiger Mom” fame/infamy has written an airport book. An airport book is like an airport meal: bland and easy to consume (if not to digest), so rarely good that a good one is memorable, and of course engineered to be consumed most frequently (but not exclusively) in airports, in business travelers’ hotels between airports, and in similar locales. Because they are aimed at business travelers, airport books touch most frequently on subjects at least tangentially related to the theme of “success,” whether in business or nonbusiness enterprises. And because they need to be of at least potential mass-market appeal sufficient to carry them past the gatekeepers at Hudson News, which edits air travelers’ choices of readily available reading material with at least as much zeal as any Index-amending medieval cardinal, they often are wildly profitable. The irony is that if you are really good at writing airport books, you can afford to spend very little time in airports, at least outside of the first-class lounges or general-aviation terminals.

Ms. Chua became a household name with her 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which nobody read, because they’d already read the short version, published as an essay in the Wall Street Journal under the much more forthright title “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Her latest is The Triple Package, written in partnership with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, like his wife a professor at Yale Law School. Both of them have written other books, largely on law and politics, Mr. Rubenfeld having written two novels as well. How the division of labor on this particular volume breaks down is unknown to me, but however much of the book is his, the voice is hers.

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