Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chances are, if you’re Chinese American, or even Asian American, you’ve probably heard about the uproar Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal caused. With an incendiary title like “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”, it’s hard not to get all riled up. Unlike most people who just read the article, or skim it, choosing to form their opinions on what an editor left out, I decided to read Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother before commenting too much about it.

Although the newspaper article was written tongue in cheek (something a lot of people seemed to have gloss over), it left out some important elements that are present in the book. First, there’s humor. The article was funny, especially to one who has been on the daughter’s end of things, but the book is laugh-out-loud funny. Funny in the “oh god, this same thing happened to me” funny. Sure, it was frustrating and painful while my own mother did some of the things Chua writes about, but I have to laugh when I think back about how we pitted against each other back then.

Another thing missing in the article is her conclusion. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Chua isn’t saying that the Chinese way is superior. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but there’s a whole lot that the Wall Street Journal leaves unsaid and it’s no use getting your panties in a rutt about it if you don’t bother reading the entire book.

The book is a breeze to read through (or maybe it’s because I have super-human reading speed thanks to my Chinese mother forcing me to read the dictionary 5x every night before going to bed?) and Chua captures the every day battles of raising two children in a warm, almost nostalgic way.   While reading this book, I found myself rooting for every success the daughters earned through their hard work and practice.  I also found myself laughing at some of the things Chua forced them to do.  I only wish there was more about Jed, her husband, who seemed to be just on the sidelines but as she noted, that may be for another book.

Chua’s story of setting an ideal of how to raise her children, the difficulties she faced from within her family as well as from living in a culturally different country made me think of my own mother and the fights that we had. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother should be necessary reading for anyone who has a Chinese mother.

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Review: Jane Eyre

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a timeless classic! This was my first time reading Jane Eyre and I can see myself revisiting it again in a few years. Initially, I thought the beginning was slow and I couldn’t understand what the fuss around this book was about, but now I realize that it serves as a perfect explanation of Jane’s character and her actions in her adult life.

Bronte’s writing is so good at conveying emotions and moods. Her characters’ introspections are illuminating and touching. This is navel-gazing done right.

At its heart, Jane Eyre is a romance novel, but not a kind of lusty, throbbing organs romance. The emotions in this novel left me breathless sometimes. When things were good, I felt elated along with the characters. When things turn sour, as I dreaded they would, I was just as tormented as the unfortunate parties involved.

Even though I couldn’t empathize with some of Jane’s decisions concerning Mr. Rochester, I still respected her for her strength of character for doing such difficult tasks.

This novel is just lovely. I’m curious how the new film will interpret it.

Several people including my lovely co-workers here at Goodreads have commented about how *weird* the book is. Yes, the whole romance is a bit creepy and Jane’s affections for Mr. Rochester seem rather servile.  But I just attribute it to the time the book was written. That and I’m often touched by strange creepy things.  What I thought was more creepy was that Jane actually considered marrying her first cousin! Times sure do change.

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Review: Across the Universe

Across the UniverseAcross the Universe by Beth Revis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

If I had been ten years younger and hadn’t read so many sci-fi and dystopian books already, I would have liked Across the Universe a lot more. It’s not to say this book is bad. Not at all. But throughout the whole time reading this book, I kept seeing recycled ideas, themes, and a pervasive feeling of reading it all before.

Everything is a little cliched in the book and the characters all felt a little sterile, even the main ones. The mystery of who’s screwing things up on the ship was tantalizing enough to keep me reading, but I already had a hint of how the story as going to end up. The themes in the book were just very heavy handed.

Across the Universe would be more enjoyable to someone who’s not an avid reader of dystopian fiction.

Lesson learned from this book: things ALWAYS go wrong in space.

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