Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

If you're not sure what this one's about...you maybe ought to work on your cultural literacy.  I think at this point "Tiger Mother", "Tiger Father", "Tiger Boss", etc. are basically a figure of speech based on the author's memoir of raising her daughters the "Chinese way" - think ultra strict, harsh, driven, ambitious, etc. 

In reading other reviews of the book, I got kind of annoyed, because I think the book isn't reviewed nearly as much as the author's parenting style.  What reviewers seem to be missing is that this is a memoir, not a manual.  So I quickly tired of seeing people give it a low rating because they don't like Chua's parenting style.  The point of the book isn't to tell other people how to parent - it's a memoir of how she raised her daughters and explores what she would do the same and what she would do differently.  Giving the book a poor review because you don't like her parenting methods would be like giving a memoir of addiction a bad review because you don't like addicts.  The point of a memoir is to tell a story of a life experience, not to provide instruction on how others should live.  And Chua meets both my "good book" criteria by presenting an well-written and entertaining memoir.

Writing
I really, really enjoyed Chua's writing.  I think her pacing is great.  When a memoir covers such a long period of time (thirteen years or so in this one) I usually wish the author had spent more or less time on a particular portion of the story.  There's almost always a moment when I think "I wish I could read more about that time" or "I'm really ready for this portion to end".  Not so with this one.

Entertainment Value
I couldn't stop reading.  I found Chua's life and her parenting techniques (as well as the effect on her kids) fascinating.  As Chua points out repeatedly throughout the book, it's just based on a completely different culture.  I also found the reactions of Chua's American husband to be really interesting.  I also really loved that Chua shows growth by the end of the book.  She realizes and acknowledges mistakes she made and discusses how she might change things in the future.

Overall
I highly recommend giving it a try.  You probably won't agree with how Chua raises her children - I certainly didn't.  But the book isn't giving instruction, it's telling a story.  And the story is fascinating in the way it shows the two cultures - Chinese and American - in stark contrast and the effects of trying (or not trying) to blend those cultural values.  No matter how you feel about Chua's choices, the book is well-written and fascinating. 

I borrowed this one in e-book format from my not so local library.

3 comments:

  1. I agree with your point. Most "reviews" of this book have been rants about the author's approach to parenting rather than a review of the actual book. This does sound interesting.

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  2. I really enjoyed this book! In my "review" I did rant about how much the thought of this topic made my blood boil, but when I got to the discussion of the book itself I said that I enjoyed the memoir... I found the two opposite feelings funny!

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