Friday, January 28, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother [memoir]

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua has been getting a lot of press these days, but I was on the fence about reading about it. I downloaded the sample and in it the author mentioned that she has a younger sister with Down syndrome so that sealed it for me. Just mention DS and I'm a sucker, even if the story has nothing to do with it. But I was curious if having a sibling made a person more sensitive to your own children's differences.

Very obviously NOT in Chua's case. If you haven't heard about the controversy, the book is a memoir about how she raised her kids "the Chinese way" as opposed to "the Western way". (BTW, her husband is Jewish.) She's the stereotypical high-achieving supermom with those kids who MUST be the best academically and musically. No TV, no computer games, no playdates, no sleepovers. Just hours of practice, practice, practice.

Everything must be perfect. She even rejects her kids' homemade birthday cards for their mom and told them to do it over again because they weren't good enough. That's just one example of the brutal exchanges she recounts in her book. She attempts to be self-reflective and self-deprecating, but only succeeds some of the time. Because reading it I always felt like she was sneering at what most people would consider good parenting. I was completely incredulous at her methods. Like she finds it perfectly acceptable to call her kids "garbage" and then tries to play it off as a cultural difference. Ugh. Of course, she defends her parenting style by pointing out that her kids have learned perseverance, dedication, overcoming obstacles, etc. That the cycle of success breeds more success and self-esteem and self-confidence. But she does acknowledge that there's no room for "failure".

Her younger daughter does eventually rebel (and Chua discovers that she can't apply the same methods to her dogs) and supposedly that's what this book is about. That Chua has reconsidered her ways. But she's so damn smug about the whole thing, I don't buy it.

It does make you reflect on your own parenting methods. How much is too much, how much is too little and all that. It's a super quick read. I think it took me about 2 hours to read, not counting the numerous times I had to put the book down to avoid screaming at the pages. If you decide to read it, be prepared to do that!


  1. So basically, it's a book where she tries to justify her method of parenting, yet pretend to be sorry about some aspects. What she failed to teach her children was more important than what she actually did teach them....Unconditional Love. I doubt they will return home much.

  2. This book has gotten a lot of press, which has kept it right up there on the best sellers list - not that I'm opposed to Chau making a lot of money for it. This IS America.

    All that is said about it has made me cringe here and there, too, but I must admit that I am curious and might eventally read it. Who knows...there could be something in the book that I can learn from. Hmmmm...

    Thanks for the review and opinion.