This book has sparked so much buzz and heated controversy. In essence, it's about Chinese parenting vs Western parenting. But Chua uses the term "Chinese mother" loosely; it's more of an "immigrant mentality." And Chua's memoir has surely struck a nerve with me 'coz I'm a Chinese Malaysian mom myself, raising my 2 daughters in the States. But unlike Chua, I'm definitely no Tiger Mom, lol, I'm probably more of a Rabbit Mom. And after reading Chua's book, I found myself questioning my own parenting choices and techniques. Am I not pushing my daughters hard enough so they realize their full potential? I think Chua goes to the extreme, and for me, the key is looking for a happy medium. Here's a dishy condensed excerpt from NPR's Fresh Air (National Public Radio) of Maureen Corrigan's review.
"The back story to Chua's memoir is this: She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and is now a professor at Yale Law School and the author of two best-selling 'big-think' books on free-market democracy and the fall of empires. When Chua married her husband, fellow Yale law professor and novelist Jed Rubenfeld, they agreed that their children would be raised Jewish and reared 'the Chinese way,' in which punishingly hard work — enforced by parents — yields excellence; excellence, in turn, yields satisfaction in what Chua calls a 'virtuous circle.' The success of this strategy is hard to dispute. Older daughter Sophia is a piano prodigy who played Carnegie Hall when she was 14 or so. The second, more rebellious daughter, Lulu, is a gifted violinist. I looked over at my daughter and had mixed feelings about her just chillin' in front of the TV, rather than plugging away in that virtuous circle of enforced practice. I guess we won't be sending out the invitations for Carnegie Hall anytime soon."
***This is the 1st part of the review - "What kind of a mother informs her daughter that she's 'garbage?' And what kind of mother believes, as Chua tells readers she does, that: "an A- is a bad grade; ... the only activities your children should be permitted to to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and ... that medal must be gold?
What kind of a mother? Why, a mother who's raising her kids the Chinese, rather than the Western, way. In her new memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua recounts her adventures in Chinese parenting, and — nuts though she may be — she's also mesmerizing. Chua's voice is that of a jovial, erudite serial killer — think Hannibal Lecter — who's explaining how he's going to fillet his next victim, as though it's the most self-evidently normal behavior. That's the other gripping aspect of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: There's method to Chua's madness — enough method to stir up self-doubt in readers who subscribe to more nurturing parenting styles. Trust me, Battle Hymn is going to be a book club and parenting blog phenomenon; there will be fevered debate over Chua's tough love strategies."
****And here is another eye opening blog post by an Anonymous reader on Quora.com that made me rethink what Chua refers to as the 'Chinese-way' of parenting.
"There's a culture clash you can't overlook here. The Chinese mother in my life had a strictly results driven, merit based mindset and a heavy emphasis on test scores, achievements and report cards being able to show that her daughter was better than everyone else in the class -- which in turn was a reflection on her success as a parent. However, the environment in which she raised us in was a different country. One that she has honestly never gotten used to or felt comfortable in living in. To her, the idea of having her children become "Americanized" was looked down upon as failure. The idea of allowing a more flexible stance, a softer tone or an expression of individualism was out of the question. This duality of living in a very "Chinese" household and going to school where our American teachers taught us to be free thinking and creative were constantly at odds with each other growing up.
Drawing from personal experience, the reason why I don't feel this works is because I've seen an outcome that Amy Chua, the author fails to address or perhaps has yet to experience.
My big sister was what I used to jealously call "every Asian parent's wet dream come true" (excuse the crassness, but it really does sum up the resentment I used to feel towards her). She got straight As. Skipped 5th grade. Perfect SAT score. Varsity swim team. Student council. Advanced level piano. Harvard early admission. An international post with the Boston Consulting Group in Hong Kong before returning to the U.S. for her Harvard MBA. Six figure salary. Oracle. Peoplesoft. Got engaged to a PhD. Bought a home. Got married.
Her life summed up in one paragraph above.
Her death summed up in one paragraph below.
Committed suicide a month after her wedding at the age of 30 after hiding her depression for 2 years. She ran a plastic tube from the tailpipe of her car into the window. Sat there and died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of her new home in San Francisco. Her husband found her after coming home from work. A post-it note stuck on the dashboard as her suicide note saying sorry and that she loved everyone.
Mine is an extreme example of course. But 6 years since her passing, I can tell you that the notion of the "superior Chinese mother" that my mom carried with her also died with my sister on October 28, 2004. If you were to ask my mom today if this style of parenting worked for her, she'll point to a few boxes of report cards, trophies, piano books, photo albums and Harvard degrees and gladly trade it all to have my sister back.
For every success story that has resulted from the "Chinese mothers" style of parenting, there are chapters that have yet to unfold. The author can speak to her example of how it's worked for her but it'll be interesting to see how long you can keep that gig up and pass it down until something gives.
As a responsibility to herself as a "superior Chinese mother", I think Amy Chua should do a bit of research outside her comfort zone and help readers understand why Asian-American females have one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. -- I bet many of you didn't know that. I didn't until after the fact. It'd make a good follow up book to this one she's currently profiting from."