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: The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday ThingsThe Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars.

The book has a handful of solid arguments when it comes to general designing and lots of examples (albeit dated examples) to back it up. The previous title of this book (the Psychology of Everyday Things) is a better fit because most of the book is about how the user’s mind works when faced with a product or object.

It’s an okay design book, but I have to say that the way the book’s formatted is confusing. For being a book about design, it sure makes it hard to figure out why whole paragraphs are italicized (are they anecdotes from other people? examples? excerpts from other papers??) and which section headings have hierarchy over others.

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Review: Out of Africa

Out of Africa (Modern Library) Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
2 of 5 stars

This book can be read through two frames. While the author was observing and remarking how quaint and backwards the natives were, I was observing how quaint and backwards the author’s views on Africa was. I had to keep reminding myself of the decades this book was written in to keep from rolling my eyes too much.

The vignettes are enjoyable and I was genuinely interested in some of the inhabitants of the farm, but the long passages describing the scenery, expatriates, and colonialism were tiresome and boring.

I wouldn’t have finished the book if not for the fact that it was chosen as a book club book and I felt an obligation to complete it. At least that way, I can give it a review without feeling like I was cheating because I only read half of the book.

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