Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
|Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Chua's methods of parenting will seem borderline psychotic to many Western readers – and that's being kind. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a guide to parenting, as a memoir and an entertaining read it's outstanding.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2011|
Amy Chua has firm beliefs about parenting. She brought up her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, using a strict set of rules – including no sleepovers, no playdates, no school plays, no choice of extra curricular activity, no grades less than an A, and no being less than the number 1 student in any 'academic' subject. Then there's the piano and violin practice… On hearing she called her daughter Sophia 'garbage', an acquaintance of hers burst into tears. The thought of praising one of the girls for getting a B, as many American parents do, would no doubt have a similar affect on Chua. Mother – or monster?
While most of Chua's readers appear to have a firm grasp on what they think of her parenting methods, I have to confess I'm somewhat undecided. Yes, they stand out initially as being completely crazy due to their difference from what we've come to expect of mothers and fathers today – but as a teacher I have to admit I'd love to have had either Sophia or Lulu in my class, knowing there was at least one incredibly hard working child with extremely supportive parents there. (Not to criticise any of my current classes at all!) I also think charges I've seen levied against Battle Hymn of being racist or encouraging racism are far from the mark – Chua says early on that this isn't the way all Chinese parents raise their kids and neither is it exclusively limited to the Chinese.
So, as a parenting guide I'm dubious as to the value of the book – but I don't think for one second that Chua intended it as a manual to be followed. While it raises questions about which style is best, this is at heart a memoir – of Chua herself, of good girl Sophia, and of firebrand Lulu, who eventually rebels against her mother's constant demands. Focusing on particular moments, including massive successes in the music world, we see the results of Chua's obsessive micromanagement. My personal highlight, perhaps, is the three notes she shares with us as samples of the instructions she left her girls. No 'remember to practice' here – instead, detailed measure by measure, blow by blow, directives telling them exactly what to do for the entire fifty five minutes. While this may seem downright crazy to many readers, the author's love for both daughters shines through and it's a consistently and thought-provoking read.
Further reading suggestion: For another case of truly unusual parenting, the fantastically exciting The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby is strongly recommended.
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