With all the controversy and commotion over Amy Chua’s new memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin, 2011), I am so excited to feature guest blogger and artist Chandrika Marla’s review of this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and more or less laughed my way through it. It is a brave and frank book–writing it was probably a cathartic experience for Amy Chua.
It is obvious that Ms. Chua knows how ridiculous she sounds (to most of us). She talks openly about her obsession to have her children excel at what she chooses for them, oddly referring to it as “tunnel vision drive.” She considers insults to be motivational but later admits, “I know now that parental favoritism is bad and poisonous.” She recounts incredible episodes of her obsessive behavior, and forces us to question her rationality when she threatens to leave her three year-old out in the cold, because she is determined to raise an obedient Chinese child!
Her younger daughter forces her to rethink her parenting style, and she is shocked when Lulu rebels. We see her inability to accept this, and are relieved to learn at the end that both girls have grown up to be her friends, and have contributed to the book. They sound thankful that their mother taught them to persevere at something, and now use the same tenacity to attain their own chosen goals. They have clearly understood that, “nothing is fun until you’re good at it” and are willing to work hard to succeed.
Ms. Chua is proud to have taken in her sick mother-in-law. She looks around and sees many Western families who have fallen apart, and grown children who “can’t stand to be around their parents.” She seems to wonder why children who were brought up to value self esteem and independence do not eventually respect their parents enough. Could their desire for independence make them alienate their own parents?
Upon being questioned about the necessity of mentioning their two dogs in the narrative, Ms. Chua says she writes about them because “there’s something inherently unstable about a Chinese mother raising dogs.” Instability aside, it is unclear to me what she is trying to convey through them. She tells Lulu the dogs are not metaphors for the girls–perhaps she wants to shock us with her need to have a dream for the dogs, too?
Or show us that she has a human side to her, after all.
I see this book as a word of caution to most of us ‘Chinese’ mothers. Ms. Chua has learned valuable lessons in her journey as a mother, and I admire her for recounting them. From being an overbearing, fanatic parent she is now her daughters’ ally. Everything is good in moderation after all, and what works for some may not be the answer for the rest of us. I personally have added this book to the pantheon of books that I will refer to in my own battle to raise the perfect child–right next to Outliers and Out of Our Minds.