Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim
Berkley Publishing Group
Top of the Class, written by two first-generation Korean-American sisters, purports to reveal in its 17 chapters ("secrets," they're called) why Asian parents raise such successful children. But many, if not most, of the book's secrets are everyday, commonsense ruminations: Yes, instilling a love of learning in one's children is a good thing; no, it's not healthy to give children all that they demand; and so forth. As such, Top of the Class is no different from the plethora of unoriginal parenting guides - except in one way. This book outdoes the others in defining success as a black-and-white, one-size-fits-all proposition. And what constitutes success in Top of the Class? Flip the book over, peruse the summary, and you'll find the answer glaring in bright red ink: "Asians and Asian-Americans make up 4% of the U.S. population...and 20% of the Ivy League. Now, find out how they do it...." That tidbit is followed by a list of prestigious colleges and the percentages of their student bodies of Asian descent. And although the authors (one a surgeon, the other a lawyer) occasionally toss in short blurbs about "personal fulfillment" and "happiness," they can't resist writing about how much money they make in their chosen professions. The sisters also tell us: "Thirty years later, we still smile when we hear our parents brag to friends and family, 'One doctor and one lawyer in the family - who could ask for anything more?'" Well, people may not ask for anything more, but I can think of lots of people who want something different. The text is less a study in raising happy, successful children than a guide for practicing 23 (or more) years of parental damage control. Parents: If you want your children to attend Ivy League institutions, become doctors or lawyers, and then write about how wonderful you are - buy this book. Otherwise, avoid it.