Battle 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.