on July 10, 2011
As difficult as it was to read a large part of this book, it's a true disservice to criticize it before you finish it. I can see why it would be easy to throw the book down in disgust after the first few chapters, but if you waited for the punchline, you'd come away with something much different.
The first two thirds of the book is a straight forward recounting of a driven mother enforcing her delusions upon her two children. She offers no insights and no evidence to back up any of her ridiculous assumptions about "Asian" parenting and its supposed superiority. If anything, I simply took it at face value as an interesting look at what it takes to get your child to elite levels of performance. However, it is a difficult read. It was not funny. And, as a parent (and a Chinese one), I choked at her unabashed abuse of her authority and power over her kids.
As I said, though, you have to finish the book as the lessons learned don't get delivered until the end, and I think it ended correctly (yes, Chua does come to her senses) . She concludes quite rightly that if your child grows up hating you, all your efforts would be for naught. We all want our kids to work hard and be successful, but if your child does not love you, then you have absolutely failed. The fact that her kids and husband have not left her could be attributed to her openness and honesty, and the love in her family is very apparent at the end. All in all, I'm glad to have read this book.
Chinese parenting or Western parenting - which one is better? I never really gave much thought in the past about any specific differences between the two styles. I did, however realize that a lot of Asian children seem to be more `gifted' academically, technologically, and musically but put it down to longer school hours and Saturday classes in the Asian world.
Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother is the true story of a Chinese Mom raising her two Chinese/American daughters in the Chinese parenting way. The level of respect, obedience, altruism, and integrity that is expected from the child(ren) is almost mind-numbing! An immensely enjoyable book that had me pulled in from the first page where Ms. Chua lists some things that Chinese mothers would NEVER EVER allow their Chinese children to do. I understood completely the comparisons and the clash of cultures and the bluntness and almost arrogant and insulting way these children are raised in.
In the end, who is the better parent? Well, that is for each of you to decide after you've read this amazing, humbling, and brutally honest story. I'd highly recommend this book to any one, I read it in one sitting, it mesmerized me!
I'd like to warn those that may purchase this book thinking there is valuable content within.
Battle Hymn is not worth the paper it is printed on. This book is ~ 250 pages of Amy Chua, mother of two evacuating hot air about raising children the Chinese way, as Chinese immigrants. The kicker? She's lived in the U.S. since her diaper wearing days and her father was a professor at a Californian university. Clearly she is the embodiment of the immigrant experience. As the only member of my family born in Canada I can say that I am not a descendant of wealthy business people, nor were either of my parents academics (what one may consider an elite profession). The book describes how much she fights with her children to force them to practice piano and violin hours per day every day and on vacation. How there is "no rest for the Chinese mother" because she's constantly practicing for the next big audition for the next big school, teacher, pre-college program. If you like immigrant hard luck stories you won't find them here. If you need to scar your kids by developing their ego with encouragement like 'you're garbage' go ahead and waste your money. I wish we learned about her husband's parents (Sy and Harriet). They raised a man with artistic talent, who waited tables in New York City for one year, became a district attorney, a Yale professor, and non-braggart.
If you'd like something productive to read go with Baumeister's **Will Power**
on January 25, 2011
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, has received a lot of press since its release early this year, much of which I have been reading. As I listened to comments by callers over the BBC World Service or readers of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, many sounded like a thinly-veiled rants to a psychotherapist. The book seems to have hit a nerve amongst both parents and children, and naturally so, given the impact of one's childhood and the raising of one's children.
While I have always been interested in cross-cultural issues (in this case, the comparison of "Chinese" vs. "Western" parenting styles), I wasn't too keen on buying this book because, frankly, I didn't think it would be that interesting. However, I made the decision to purchase the book when I read reviews on Amazon by people who had actually read the book, many of whom saying that the media had only portrayed the more controversial portions of the book, and that the book itself was a great read and well written.
I ordered the book a couple of weeks ago, started it two days ago and just finished it 30 minutes ago. My verdict? The book was...just okay. It was an easy read, but then again, so are Shopoholic books. It was well-written, but often with a technical feel - no beautiful prose here. However, I give her points for her ascerbic wit, which made me wonder as to how much of the book should be taken literally, as opposed to her aiming to entertain her readers.
As for Chua's story about raising her children, the book confirmed my earlier instincts in that I did not find much of it to be that shocking or especially interesting. Early in the book, Chua confidently states that the "Chinese mother" is different from the "overscheduling soccer mom". But are they really that different from each other and other "types" of parents? By substituting the object (schoolwork/piano/violin vs. sports vs. being good), what you end up with is something much more universal (and not uncommon): parents with a narrow view of what success is (for themselves and their children), trial-and-error parenting (afterall, who in this world has gotten it perfect all the way through), children who fit into stereotypes ("rebel", "eldest", etc...) and at the same time be completely unique human beings.
In spite of my ennui to her life story, the book's value for me was in the conversation that has resulted (see above links to your friendly neighbourhood media outlet), not about Chua's parenting per se, but family relationships in my own life. Throughout the book, I reflected on how my parents raised me, the role my grandparents played and how, Insha'Allah, I might one day raise my own. Being a second generation Korean-Canadian myself (Chua's generation, albeit with no kids), I recognized Chua, Sophie and Lulu and poor Harvard Wong (a guy with aspiring parents who makes a cameo in the book) in many people in my life (including myself). Ultimately, I see as much value in Chua's parenting principles (many) as I see in Jed's, her husband (also, many) - and I think that is the point in this discourse: to each parent their own, let each one draw upon their own unique life experience in deciding what is best for their children.
on August 22, 2012
I was boiling over with rage the whole time while reading this book. I think the main point Amy Chua makes (unintentionally!) is that she is a shallow, cut-throat-competitive, insensible and rude person who feels no remorse about bending her loved ones to her iron will, excusing abuse and meanness as "Chinese parenting". She has no respect for anyone, referring to professors, lawyers, music teachers as "that guy" or "this guy", and often making fun of their appearance. She also stereotypes mercilessly against (white) "Western" parents, their dumb kids, janitors, people who own pets, etc. Believing herself to be far superior to everyone, Chua really goes to extremes of conceit, casually flicking about accounts of "mediocre" restaurants and "really cheap" motels. After forcing her daughters to re-write a eulogy for their "awful" eulogies for grandmother to give them more "insight" and "depth", she secretly congratulates herself when the funeral-goers end up impressed. I can't imagine a more horrible person than the one who even uses a family member's funeral to assert their own offspring's superiority.
I feel very bad for her daughters. The "parenting" method used on them is suffocating emotional abuse. The spirited and independent youngest daughter in particular suffers from being forcefully bent to her mother's will, over and over again every day of her life. The book stops its narrative when she is 13, which is too early for the worst emotional issues to start. I hope these girls are not too emotionally messed up in their late teens and twenties. Also, years of being constantly compared to and pitted against their peers create disfunctional mental models that are hard to undo in adulthood. The only question that interests me is where was the father and what is his stance on this. He seemed like the more sensible person, at least based on how he was presented in the book. Does he truly love Amy Chua? Why didn't he stop the abuse of his daughers? Does he have regrets about not doing so? What are his thoughts on the whole story?
Overall, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is pointless. The parenting model presented is not valuable. The story is not interesting; really, who wants to read about another family's superficial every day life - a job promotion here, a vacation there, a child's victory in a piano contest? Finally, the language is attrocious. There isn't even enough there to use the term "literary style". I think most teenagers have a larger vocabulary and can build more graceful sentences, and I truly cannot believe Chua is a law professor at a good university. The only purpose the book accomplishes is to incense Americans against Chinese, who will now be blamed as a group for bringing cut-throat competition from the age of two to the US. Please don't waste your money on this book and don't support Amy Chua.
A discaimer: I'm not trying to harm Amazon's business. There are multitudes of excellent books on this site you could buy for your enjoyment and enrichment, just not this one.
There's lots to admire in this parenting saga. I'm glad to see such strong conviction that kids are strong and don't need protection from challenges. The whole family network including the dogs gets into the drama, and things get hotter than hell's kitchen. It's a titanic clash of wills that I wish every family would discuss.
Amy Chua doesn't really care if her kids get rich or famous. She just want's them to stand head and shoulders above all competitors, for the sheer excellence of it. She's an Olympic mom. I don't think it's a Chinese thing. It's an immigrant thing. Lot's of people in China are far more concerned to fit in than to stand out.
Maybe we're all prone to assume that something or other is the greatest thing in life, be it money, fame, love, religiosity, or whatever. And if that chosen whatever is the greatest thing, then do we have any valid excuse not to go flat out for the gold medal in that, even if it's to the exclusion of almost everything else?
Chua's book makes you think, and we need to think a lot. We know those kids on the Olympic podiums spent their entire childhoods striving for their moments of glory. We know there were huge costs. We also know that the kids who never really strove for anything have no future we'd want. But is life just a relentless competition for the top spot? Or does the art of life involve finding the best balance?
--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
on June 12, 2011
I must say that this book was an easy read, and I was gripped by Amy's stories throughout. I'm usually bored from reading, but I was so engaged that I finished it in three days.
This book has been sensationalized in the media, showing only the more controversial excerpts from the book. Amy is humble about her opinions; in the end she admits that this extreme parenting style did not work for her second daughter, Lulu, and had to give it up to let Lulu pursue her own interests and dreams (the Western approach) or risk losing her relationship with her daughter. Amy presents some very good reasons to adopt a "Chinese" parenting style and should make you re-think your parenting strategy. Her justifications don't necessarily mean that we should strive to raise prodigies, however if you've understood her reasoning then you may push your kids a little harder.
Here is one quote that resonated with me:
"There's nothing better for building confidence than learning you could do something you thought you couldn't."
Her criticism of parents that worry too much about their kids' psyches sounds very reasonable. If your child has a confidence substantiated on skills and abilities, no insults will hit home. However if your child has no accomplishments to source his confidence, he is standing on shaky ground and will likely be insecure throughout his life as he is surpassed in school and at work.
on February 15, 2011
I read an interview that Amy Chua did about this book in Maclean's magazine and this is what prompted me to buy it. This was a very interesting read about a self described "Chinese Mother" trying to raise over achieving Asian kids in America. In many ways I admire her strengnth and courage as she does battle with herself and her children to have them get the most out of themselves so they will secure happiness in adulthood. She denies them a typical Western style childhood so that they might take advantage of their talents and work to the best of their abilities. What she is really doing for them is allowing them to grow in such a way as to have choices.....choices about what schools they will be able to be accepted to, choices about careers they might pursue, etc. She takes them on a marathon music journey for at least 10 years of their lives instilling in them not only a love for music but in one child's case a passion. The discipline she demands can be overwhelming but at the same time it produces excellence and this is what she is striving for. My mother in law used to say to me,"Why be mediocre at what you choose to do everyday when you can be excellent in your pursuit of even the most mundane?" In other words quit wasting time, be your best self. I think, like some parents, she is too hard on the girls and too hard on herself with her relentless demands of perfection but there is no denying she gets results and her children who work very hard to please her and please their teachers ultimately end up pleasing themselves. This allows them to see the value of hard work, tenacity, and the "D" word discipline. I enjoyed reading about her adventure and agreed with her sticking to it approach. However, I thought that some of her tactics such as humiliation, were cruel and unneccessary. I also thought that there are cases where we can work with some of our children until the cows come home and their ability to reach the stars will just not happen for them. They have reached the moon and that will be all they can achieve in this lifetime because of their restrictions. I do acknowledge that she alluded to this somewhat with her one sister. To sum up, I found this a very interesting and enjoyable read. I recommend this book because one learns something about a different way from another culture. Amy Chua is a captivating writer. I felt she wrote truthfully with a firm belief in her tactics and motivation, but she also humanized it with some humerous descriptions of herself and her methods. Read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother you will not be disappointed.
on August 25, 2011
Parenting has always been a complex issue and this truly is a memoir of a mom's struggles between Eastern and Western values. For example: Western liberalism vs. Eastern collectivism, laissez-faire education vs. a martial system, etc. This book is not one where she is only lauding the merits of the East but also being introspective on the strengths of the West. Being cognizant of this comparison is particularly pertinent with the present rise of China in addition to the great influx of East Asian students in top Western universities. I am aware I am generalizing here but it is inevitable when speaking in broad cultural terms: if you are a Westerner, challenge yourself to approach this book with an open-mind and it will truly be enjoyable and even eye-opening. If you begin the book criticizing Amy's philosophy on the outset, this will be a painful book to read. And to be frank, her types of kids will be the ones destroying yours in piano competitions.
on June 1, 2011
This is a very informative read and some insight into Chinese(mainly) mothers who push their kids hard. I look forward to other "tales" by this writer. I experience the concerns my students have even up here in the north( I tutor Canadians in English mainly Chinese students who in addition to a Tiger mother's shove up the academic ladder, want to do more themselves). A great price and the delivery was prompt.