A Tribute to Tiger Mom: Selected Poetry and Prose by Rain Chan

Selected poetry and prose from Rain Chan. Read “A Tribute to Tiger Mom” below and click here to read more of Rain’s work.


‘A Tribute to Tiger Mom’ was a poem written for multiple reasons. It was written as reaction to a stereotype that did not justify the complexity of what it means to be an Asian mother, the children of Asian mothers, and the ramifications of growing up in a western culture that dehumanizes groups of people who are oppressed systematically. It is a piece which attempts to express the pains of restrictions imposed by a variety of powers that be, only to eventually come to a deep understanding of the difference between abuse of power and tough love as a consequence of the struggle for survival. It is a piece dedicated to all those who love their mothers while also seeking desperately for ways to forgive.


A Tribute to Tiger Mom


Tiger moms are real

They are not figments of our imagination

They roar at us when we make mistakes

we sobbed and whimpered like tortured animals

in their presence.

Their claws sharpened

by centuries of ancestral bickering.


In the eyes of tiger moms

there is only one form of love—

tough love.


We compare our tiger moms with white mommies

we see on TV

secretly wishing we were born with lighter pigmentation

Our naive selves long to develop strong,



so we can win

battles against our white counterparts

on the school yard

during recess.


My tiger mom wanted to prepare me for a cruel and unjust world

where i can fend for myself

because that is the world she grew up in.






she knew

i would experience



all kinds of isms.


Underneath this tiger is an abandoned little girl

who forgot how to laugh,

how to weep,

how to reach out,

to hold your hand,

to say “I love you”


This little girl wanted to ensure

that i will always know

how to read

her language.


this little girl

held on tightly

to education

to language

to communication.


so as i sit by the window watching the white kids

play tag in the park

i recite

poems from Tang dynasty.


Not every tiger moms are teachers back home

not every tiger moms marry violent men

not every tiger moms become astronaut parents

Some are even capable of compliments.


my tiger mom gave me a gift

that i, as a child,

did not understand how to appreciate

the gift of being literate

in my own mother tongue.


It is a gift that caused Canadian born Chinese kids

to label me Fresh

Off the Boat.



As an adult, this gift is unimaginable

amongst Chinese community

How is it possible that one can speak fluent English

and also read Chinese?



“How old were you when you came?”

as if my language skills define

who i am.

This gift created an envy

i never understood.

but i assure you

there would be no envy

had you known how much tears

were shed in the process of keeping






Saturn return takes approximately

28-30 years to occur.


i begin to yearn for roots

to dig through Chinese sources

to unravel mysteries of 5000-year-old histories

analyze the need to critique Mao Ze Dong and Confucianism

to embrace Daoism and read Lu Xun

to commemorate June 4th


to value deep bonds and exchanges with FOB friends

to follow Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

to value Taiwanese indie musicians

i begin to cook



i begin to study Chinese medicine

i begin to dry up my tears

i begin to forgive

my mother


i begin to forgive the child in me

the child who did not understand the power of language

the child who did not care for ancient classics

the child who could not fathom colonialism

or cultural genocide.

the child who could not imagine an adult’s hunger

to reconnect with genealogical stories

or the commitment of healing

ancestral traumas.


Tiger mom’s tough love

is in essence

the gift

of empowerment,


and resilience.

Rain is a writer, performer, artist, facilitator and community activist. Most recently, Rain was awarded second place for their play The Virus at Pat the Dog Theatre Creation 24-playwriting contest. Aside from writing and performing, Rain enjoys training in qigong and has received two medals at the Toronto Health Qigong Tournament. Rain is currently working on their first science fiction novel while also studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. Photo Credit: Brian Gonzaga


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