Abby's Reviews > Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
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Dec 03, 2011

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bookshelves: nonfiction, parenting
Read from December 01 to 02, 2011

I teach in a school with a large Asian population. One of my colleagues told me I HAD to read this book. Before I read it, my sense was that Amy Chua's critics were ethnocentric and ignorant of Asian culture. After all, I'm a pretty big fan of the Chinese. Like Chua, I think most American parents are way too permissive and too concerned about their children's self-esteem. I also highly value academic achievement; I detest mediocrity and I consider myself a bitchy elitist in general. So while I expected perhaps to find Chua's methods unfamiliar, I didn't expect to have such a dramatically negative reaction to this book.

This lady is CRAZY. I would say this about a parent of any ethnicity who says and does the kinds of things she says and does. During piano practice, she calls her daughter "garbage" and threatens to burn all of her stuffed animals unless the next song is "perfect." She forbids "play dates," sleepovers, and participating in the school play. Sure, she has two virtuosos for daughters--but at what cost? While she argues that Chinese children don't end up resenting their parents any more than Western children do, it's pretty clear that she makes her entire family miserable. I wouldn't want her as my mother, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to be married to her. I don't even think I want to go to lunch with this woman. She claims modesty and humility were instilled in her by her Chinese parents, but I see no evidence of either in her character. The whole book is a huge brag session about her own accomplishments and those of her kids, and her lines drip with condescension toward Western ideas about parenting. Worse, she's constantly playing the martyr, saying that Western parents have it "so much easier" and complaining about the hours of effort she has to put into her children's music careers.

Here's an idea: instead of being a joyless harpy, why doesn't she find something she's passionate about and MODEL achievement for her children? I think children follow less what their parents tell them to do and more what they SEE their parents themselves do. Chua seems like she was never really that happy at her job. She claims that kids naturally don't want to work and must be forced, but has she considered that when children are truly motivated by something they love, they generally demonstrate a high task commitment and take pride/feel joy in their achievements?

I'm not a parent yet--I'm about to be one--but everything in my bones says this woman is bad news. I've never felt less sympathy for the author of a memoir.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-6 of 6) </span> <span class="smallText">(6 new)</span>

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message 1: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Should we make this our next book? Are you concerned you will be a Tiger Mother? It is in my genes...

message 2: by Ryn (new) - rated it 1 star

Ryn Shane-Armstrong I agree with your analysis here, but why the three stars? This seems rather generous given your scathing review.

message 3: by Sasha (new)

Sasha I am going to assume that we should not make this our next book. ;)

Abby Well, I don't think it's a horribly written book, even though I don't agree with her ideas. It's not a great book, either. The parts about her sister's illness that aren't directly related to the story, for example, seemed extraneous, and then at the end she didn't really seem to have a clear sense of what the whole story was supposed to be about. I think she just wanted to write about herself! :)

I suppose given that I might give it two stars. Maybe I thought three stars because it's interesting and controversial enough to merit a read.

Sasha, what did you think of it?

Sandy Just something to keep in mind - Parenting is so hard and it is relentless. You are usually worrying and wondering abt all your decisions and whether your kids will turn out okay.
I think once you have your own kids you can appreciate the book a little more.

Mizuki She claims modesty and humility were instilled in her by her Chinese parents, but I see no evidence of either in her character.

You are right, it is a joke for Chau to call herself humble and modest. I lost count at how many times she brags about her degrees, her career, her fine husband and daughters!

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