Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner

Thank you to TLC and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

Tiger Babies Strike Back is a memoir/essay collection/rebuttal to Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Keltner was raised by a "tiger mother" and has rejected the stereotype.  This book chronicles her story and the negative effect of being parented by a rigid, controlling mother with overly high expectations as well as her own experiences as a parent and how she interacts with her children.  

It's impossible to read the book and not compare it to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, since that book and the media attention around it is what inspired Keltner to write her own experiences from the opposite point of view.  I found it really interesting how both Chua and Keltner reflect their personalities so well in their writing.  Where Chua is formal and to the point, Keltner writes in a frequently humorous way and uses a much more casual style.  This is much less organized and direct and more of a collection of thoughts, loosely organized around the author's story as both a daughter and a mother.

Entertainment Value
I'm going to really try to avoid making my review about Chua's book, but I feel like I have to point out before this review that I really enjoyed Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (click here to see my review) as a memoir.  In my review, I mentioned how frustrating I found many reviews of the book because they interpret it as a parenting manual or a how-to book. So I started off on the wrong foot with Keltner, when in an early chapter she writes about Chua's book as a parenting book.  Chua herself admits at the end of her book that her parenting choices may not have been the best for her daughters and questions some of her decisions.  So it made me a bit twitchy to start off with what I see as a misinterpretation of the point of a memoir that I liked.

However, Keltner quickly made up for that irksome remark by writing her own unique, thoughtful memoir that gave me a much different, but equally important look at a culture very different from my own.  I feel like Keltner did a good job of helping me imagine her life and the expectations and pressures placed on her as a result of her culture, but at times I also felt like I missed out on the full picture because I'm not Chinese.  I'm not sure if it was a natural disconnect because I haven't had the life experience of being a minority or if it was the author's intent, but at times I felt like I was reading something that was directed to an "in-crowd" that I'm not a part of.  Like an inside joke that I just wasn't getting.

I think the book is worth reading if you're familiar with or interested in (whether you like or dislike) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother or if you can identify with the author's experiences being raised in an overachieving Chinese family.  Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd recommend it over other memoirs that may have a more universal appeal.

Thank you to TLC and the publisher for providing me with a copy to review.  Click here to see the full list of tour stops.


  1. Interesting to get your perspective since you enjoyed Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother so much. Parenting is such a tricky thing, and I can agree with many approaches, some of them contradictory!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. Julie, I've just posted my own review of this book, so I'm now visiting other stops on this tour. You did a very good job expressing your thoughts. It's interesting to see what others thought about this memoir.

    1. Thanks - I'm headed to check out your review now!