Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

At one point, I was #48 on the waiting list for this book at my local library. Lots of people wanted to read this book! I guess they wanted to find out the secret to why Chinese-American children are so successful. According to the author/tiger mother, it takes an authoritarian parent with sky-high expectations who never settles for anything less than perfection. She describes and defends her parenting style and illustrates it with stories about her own daughters and their accomplishments.

I read this book in one morning. It's an easy and not-easy read. It's easy because it's entertaining and humorous at times. But sometimes it's infuriating. Warning: Don't read this before you go to bed because it will wind you up, not down. Also, this book would have been great if it was fiction. But to know that it's non-fiction, that it actually happened? Now that is scary and makes me tremble a bit.

This book raised a lot of questions for me. How do you define success? Is it all about academic and musical achievement? And when does being demanding become abusive?

And what about all of those Chinese-American friends I have that dutifully followed their parents' directives about how much to study, what to study, where to go to school, which career to pursue, which job to take...who have these nice Engineering degrees from excellent schools but:
1) lost themselves in the process
2) really wanted to study Creative Writing (or anything besides Engineering)
3) are stuck working at jobs they hate
4) despise their parents and want nothing to do with them
5) experience a combination of all of the above.

Ok, yes there are some of them out there who actually do enjoy their jobs, find engineering to be extremely fulfilling, and love their parents. At least, I think they are out, if you are, please leave a comment!

Also, I should add that not all Chinese-American parents are like this tiger mother. And maybe I should add that not all Chinese-Americans are the same. While I'm at it, I should add that not all Chinese-American families are like the ones you see on Joy Luck Club. I think that's enough Chinese-American education for today. I'm gonna go get me some sweet and sour pork.

So overall, read this book so you can talk about it. It's a fast read and it raises a lot of questions, but remember to not read it before you want to sleep.

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