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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Best (and worst) Books of 2010

Perhaps I’m a few days late for a 2010 wrap-up post, but better late than never, right? I read a total of 82 books last year, which I realized was more than a book a week!  I attribute this to all my guilty pleasure reading and the handful of multi-book series I couldn’t stop reading.

I read a lot of books this year

Best Books of 2010:
Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
My co-worker suggested it for our office book-club and I’m glad he did because I don’t think I would have read David Mitchell otherwise. (review here)

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer
My favorite Stephenson book to date. I ended my Steampunk Month with it. It took me a while to warm up to it, but I thought it was great at the end. (review)

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
The Hunger Games
My favorite book of the series. It was heart-pounding, heart-warming, and a joy to read. I’m just sorry the series went so far downhill in the third book. (review)

Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life and Others
This entry is kind of cheating because I haven’t read all of the stories in this anthology yet, but I’ve liked every short story I’ve read in it. My favorite so far is Story of Your Life because it’s brain-bending and heartfelt. I usually don’t read many short stories because I feel like as soon as I develop a relationship with the characters, the story ends in an unsatisfying end. No such problem with Chiang’s stories.

Worst Book I’ve Read in 2010
The Passage (The Passage, #1)
The Passage
This was probably at the top of everyone’s “best book” list of 2010, but I thought it was overhyped, overly long, and fell apart in the third act. If this book were shorter and I hadn’t spent so much time reading it, I might not feel so antagonistic towards it, but man, the guy really needed an editor to cut this book down. I’ve played video games with stories better than the one in this book.

Review: Fevre Dream

Fevre DreamFevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fevre Dream is a poignant story about two men learning the value of friendship and trust. Oh, and it has vampires and steamboats.

I’ve read a lot of vampire books these past few years, some good, some bad, and Fevre Dream definitely belongs in the good category. No, there aren’t any sparkling, angsty, vampire love interests. Just blood-thirsty vampires, dilapidated plantations, and a lot of adventures on steamboats.

The story starts off with a steamboat captain who inadvertently agrees to a business partnership with a mysterious man with lots of money and an odd night-time schedule. If I were to just talk about the plot, Fevre Dream would be a pretty mundane vampire book. Luckily, the era and location that the story takes place picks up the slack and makes it a rich, enjoyable read.

I started this book because I’m a fan of George R. R. Martin, but I can see people who haven’t read his fantasy works enjoying this as well. I’ve seen this book categorized as horror and there are some fairly bloody scenes, but nothing that made me afraid to turn off the lights at night.

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