Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua

Summary from BN.com: All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way—the Chinese way—and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

Before I start this review, I wanted to say that I haven't read any of the other reviews about this book. I am writing this review purely from my own viewpoint and from my own experiences of being raised by a Chinese mother. I was excited to read this book for two main reasons. 1) I'm half Chinese and therefore was raised by a Chinese mother and 2) I'm looking to expand my reading this year and am reading a lot more books dealing with Asian culture.

There were many occasions while reading that I would call out to my husband (who is Caucasian) at how similar this was to my childhood or how I could relate very much to what Chua was saying. Several things stood out to me that I know others have problems with. Chua didn't let her go on sleepovers, play dates or be in school plays among other things. Her main concern was that they focus on their music as well as their studies. Well growing up, my parents didn't really let us do any of that either. And I'm not weird or abnormal. If we did go to a sleepover, like Chua's daughters, we came back extremely grumpy and irritable forcing them to come to the conclusion that sleepovers were not the best for us at such a young age. We did have friends in school and in church but mostly we kept to ourselves. When you have sisters, you pretty much have built in playmates.

Many of the things that Chua said about how Asian immigrant parents view their children and their way of living also mirrored what happened in my home as well. There are some points in the book where I agreed with what she said about how some Western parents do tend to molly-coddle their kids whereas Asian parents would be more strict. There were times when I was growing up when I wondered why instead of complimenting me on what I did well, my mother would focus on what I didn't do well instead. However now I know that she wanted me to focus on my weak points, not to make me feel bad, but to improve on them. I do feel that discipline is a lot more prevalent in most Asian families that I know. Note: My parents did not raise me as strict as Chua did her kids, therefore if she had, I would be a total failure.

I don't agree with everything that she did however. There are some parts in the book where I thought she went too far with how much she wanted her daughters to practice their instruments. She also said in the book that she never thought about doing this to get recognition for her own self but there are times during the story where I felt that she was just like pageant mothers. Why else should Lulu play at her own Bat Mitzvah than simply to show off to everyone how well she does when the audience will consist of nothing but family and friends who will congratulate the parents? Also, I was NOT a fan of her tearing up her children's birthday cards. Her reasoning was that since she spent the big bucks and time and effort on their birthday parties, they should spend equal amount and fervor for her birthday. Well maybe, her kids didn't want big parties.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
This book is extremely readable. Chua's narrative flows very smoothly and it's really easy to get hooked into her story. I know that there are MANY people who disagree with Chua's way of parenting. I know that there are a lot of people who are angry with how she treated her kids and that what she did borders on child abuse. I also know that there are many Asian American kids who despise their parents for treating them in the same way Chua treated her kids. For me, however, I will just say that first before you say anything or make any judgments, you need to read the entire book first. After that, I still feel like there are just some things a lot of people, mainly those in Western culture, won't get unless you've grown up and been raised in an Asian environment. While I don't agree with ALL of Chua's parenting techniques, there are some that absolutely make sense. My parents raised me like that and I came out a perfectly decent (if not geeky) person and I hope that my own children will come out that way. If anything at all, this book will create a lot of discussion after reading it, regardless of what your feelings are before reading.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is published by The Penguin Press (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

6 comments:

  1. I have been seeing this one in news articles and want to read it, even though I know my own parenting styles are quite different. I enjoyed your review from the perspective of a Chinese daughter. I definitely think that there are many different ways of raising children that work. It's not "one size fits all" at all.

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  2. Great review! I read this one the other day on a whim because I was tired of judging it (harshly) without reading it. I still have strong feelings against it (the parenting style) but I did think the book was really good. I am half-Korean who had same type of parenting style for the most part but I do not think I turned out just fine because of it.. more like in spite of it.

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  3. I know this book has been really controversial but I haven't read any of the details. I'm not sure why we're always so critical when another culture does things differently than we do. I think we often go too much in the opposite direction with our kids.

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  4. Chua was on The Colbert Report last night and he did a bit about the book and some of the criticism its gotten, too.

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  5. My daughter loved this book and I'm reading it next. I enjoyed this review and it's wonderful to hear from someone who understands Chua instead of the "public".

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  6. What an interesting perspective! Not letting kids go to sleepovers seemed extreme, but your explanation makes a lot of sense.

    I imagine if you have kids, you might not be quite as strict as your mom, but will probably be stricter than most American parents! :)

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