"All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that."I picked up Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua knowing it would be controversial. How a person parents their child is, outside of abusive situations of course, a very personal decision. In her memoir, Chua tells you why her way, which she refers to as the Chinese way because of its differences from traditional Western parenting, is best. In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Chua chronicles her journey raising her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, and the differences between the two girls when it comes to how they responded to her parenting style. While Sophia was content enough to go along with Chua's extreme scheduling of her time, practicing piano hours and hours each day and not being allowed things like sleepovers, Lulu rebellion against Chua's rigidity. In addition to piano or violin lessons, the girls days were filled with schoolwork- anything less than an A was not just a disappointment but completely unacceptable- and Mandarin lessons. Chua herself spends her time driving her children around, yelling at them to practice, and somehow still managing to work as a law professor at Yale University.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is definitely an honest and eye-opening look into a certain way of parenting. Chua isn't afraid of being the bad guy, if the ultimate goal is that her daughters will be successful and thank her in the end. And Sophia does- but Lulu is a completely different person, and learning to parent her without driving her away forever forces Chua to reconsider some of her beliefs. Or at least that's what she says. Personally, I didn't buy it. Even when Chua, reluctantly, offers to let Lulu quit violin, she immediately tries to involve herself in the exact same overbearing way in Lulu's pursuit of tennis. She rambles off statistics about famous tennis players and Lulu's fast improvement. Nothing about Chua appears to have grown or changed. Personally, there is nothing I dislike more than the kind of continuous bragging that makes up most of this book. And yes- it's clear that this kind of parenting often produces very successful, skilled, children. But are they happy? Chua herself willingly admits that happiness doesn't factor into the Chinese method of parenting, but it's clear from Lulu's rebellion that it should. By forcing her daughter to practice hours and hours a day on the violin and pursue competitions she was not interested in, Chua drove her away from something she once loved. I don't think that's something to be proud of.
One problem I had with the book from a writing perspective is the excessive rambling at times. There are definitely portions of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that could be edited. For one example, Chua includes several pages worth of notes she left for her daughter about her violin-playing, where as just a couple lines indicating that she was specific, measure by measure, would have been enough. That said, I did enjoy reading the book, although at times it reminded me of watching a car wreck in slow motion but being helpless to stop it. The memoir itself would be fantastic for book clubs, as it is definitely a book that can instigate a lot of discussion. However, I don't think it will be a book I reread because Chua is so blunt and obvious that I doubt I would pick up anything new.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is interesting, it is entertaining, but ultimately the style of parenting Chua champions just felt so awful that it often gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. Chua spends so much energy, time, and money on her children, and it is very clear how much she loves them. But I was left wondering why just a little bit of that time couldn't have been spent doing something that is not only good for the future but good for the soul, like volunteering or just plain having fun. I'm closer to being a child than a mother myself, but I do think that the best kind of parenting falls somewhere between the two extremes Chua details. Overall, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is successful as a controversial piece of non-fiction detailing a certain type of parenting, but Chua is less successful if she is thinking this will convince the reader her way of raising children is better.
Release Date: January 11, 2011
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.