Thursday, August 23, 2012

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

If you're not sure what this one's 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.

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.

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.


  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.

  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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