Amy Chua: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (review)

battle-hymn-of-the-tiger-motherSo yeah. I’ve read this.
As everyone else, I’ve heard about the crazy Chinese mother who wouldn’t allow her daughters to play, watch TV or go to sleepovers but who made them study all the time and when they weren’t studying, they practiced on their instruments. I had no interest in reading a book by her because that were definitely not how I wanted to raise my daughters.
But then I listen to an interview with her and thought, that she didn’t sound so crazy after all and she claimed that the reason for all that controversy, was because of one newspaper writing a headline that made everyone believe the book was something other than it really was. So I started gaining an interest in the book.
And then I found it on sale and well, the rest is history. Of course I bought it.
So what did I think about it. Well, overall, it was a bit too light and shallow for me. I had expected it to be a parenting book but it read more as a memoir. This is the story of a Chinese mother, an American father and their two children and how these children were brought up and how Chinese parents are demanding so much more of their children than Western parents and how these children succeed in life because of this.
Mind you, she is aware that being a Chinese parent doesn’t necessarily mean that you are born in China or even have Chinese blood in your veins. It’s a way of parenting and it’s the same with Western parents. A Chinese parent demands a lot of their children. They are asked to study a lot each day, they are expected to be ahead of their peers and they have to play an instrument or something similar: ‘/…/ the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach: (6) the only activities your childrne should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.’ (p. 5).
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these goals. Per se. Well, maybe a bit wrong with about six of them. But what’s really wrong is the way, the Chinese mother – or this Chinese mother at least – tries to achieve these goals. She sees no problem with screaming at her children, calling them names, comparing them to each other and shaming them. Some of the stories she tells, are so out there that it is shocking for a normal, Western mother to read them. Especially with her younger child. Her older child thrived on this regime while the younger yelled back.
One of the questions I kept asking myself was, if the goal justifies the means. It seems to me that she was mistreated by her parents and that she continued the circle of abuse by mistreating her children, or at least her younger daughter. Am I too weak because I don’t demand more of my children and think – know – that they learn things by watching TV? Could my kids achieve more if I pressed them more? Probably – but at what cost?
Her children does achieve a lot but really, I think the price is too high. She doesn’t mind if they hate her. I think that’s wrong of a mother. And I think that you can demand things of your children without demanding them in a way that makes them hate you because you are so harsh.
She does write parts of it in a way that does read a bit sarcastic/tongue in cheek – like she doesn’t completely mean what she writes. Like this: ‘Chinese parents are too busy coming down hard on their kids to raise a pet.’ (p. 66). And then they get a dog … And then she try to raise the poor dog Chinese too.
Maybe battling so much with her younger daughter taught her, what most other parents know – your style of parenting depends on the child. You can’t raise all children the same way. You have to be flexible to achieve the most. Her younger daughter’s rebellion has made her cave in some ways but the tough battles they fought with each others, could have been avoided if she had just treated her in another way.
I am not saying that she is a bad mother. I think she did what she thought was the best for her children, she wanted them to have good lives and did what she thought was necessary to achieve that. But I am saying that her way is not the best way for all – or even many – children and that achievements, even grand ones, can be bought at too high a price. And that maybe she should listen  when even her own parents tell her that she is too tough.
I did enjoy reading the book. It was a light read, an interesting glimpse into a style of parenting very different from my own where validation of the child as well as praise, fun and hanging out as a family are cornerstones.

First line: A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.

  • Title: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
  • Author: Amy Chua
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages:  237 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Top Ten Books At The TOP Of My Spring 2013 TBR list!

toptentuesday-1So I like keeping list of books I want to read soon. I often think about which book to read next so this week’s list of books I want to read this spring, was rather easy to put together.

As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. There are a lot of people participating, people reading all kinds of books, so if you check out some of the other blogs, beware of your to-read list – it might explode!

  1. Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything is Illuminated. I hadn’t planned to read this anytime soon but then I discovered that it’s the next group read for the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die group on Goodreads, beginning March 15. I read and loved Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close last year so I’m actually looking forward to this read.
  2. SJ Watson: Before I Go To Sleep. I have heard so much good about this book about a woman who is unable to remember her past or who she is – and who slowly starts to question if everything is right with her husband and with what he is telling her. It’s a debut novel and it sounds unputdownable!
  3. Amy Chua: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. So this book has gotten a lot of bad publicity but ever since I heard an interview with Amy Chua, I’ve wanted to read it.
  4. Félix J. Palma: The Map of Time. I don’t know quite how to describe this book. It sounds like a combination of a lot of different genres and just utterly engrossing and fascinating. Like a wild ride. It takes place in London in 1896, it’s about a man who has lost his lover to Jack the Ripper and a woman who struggles against the rules of Victorian society. And it involves H.G. Wells and some sort of machine that will change anything.
  5. Erik Valeur: Det syvende barn. (The Seventh Child.) 7 babies are born at the same hospital and are all placed at the same orphanage from which they are all adopted – without knowing their back ground. But they all receive an anonymous letter detailing their past and this sets events in motion. Both my mother and mother-in-law have read this and loved it and it has been rather popular in Denmark so here we go. I will read more books by Danish authors!!!
  6. Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus. Oh how I want to read this book. I actually want to read it so bad that I’m scared to do so and therefore, I keep pushing it back. I’m afraid that I have too high expectations and that they will ruin the book for me. But I want to read it and I will read it – and soon.
  7. Benjamin Hale: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. An interspecies lovestory. Bruno is a chimpanzee who falls in love with his human teacher. I was dying to read this when it was published, bought it – and it has been gathering dust on the shelf ever since … Now’s the time!
  8. Eowyn Ivey: The Snow Child. Everyone has read this, most seem to like it. It sounds like some sort of sad fairy tale and I have it home from the library and want to get to it to see what all the fuss is about – and if it is as good as people say it is.
  9. J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy. Why haven’t I read Rowling’s new book yet? I bought it right after Christmas and I’m looking forward to reading it but somehow, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. When you liked the Harry Potter books, this is kind of a must-read and I really liked them so – another need to read soon. Maybe I’m a bit scared of this one not living up to my expectations too…
  10. Christos Tsiolkas: The Slap. This is another one I’ve been wanting to read for a while. A parent slaps someone else’s child and the repercussions are overwhelming. We had a case of that here in Denmark and the mother who slapped someone else’s child, was put in jail. I have felt the urge to slap kids if they are doing something to my girls, I can feel the lion mom come up in me, so even though I have never acted on this – and probably never will – I can see myself in this book.

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The Annual Danish Book Sale (Book Buying 2013 – part 2)

So today, the Annual Book Sale began in the Danish Bookstores. I feel a bit guilty about not reading that many Danish books, especially since I’m a Danish blogger writing a blog in English and therefore have a chance to tell people about good Danish literature. But of course, if I don’t read it, then how can I tell about it? So my goal this year was to get a few books by some good Danish authors – and I did, I think.

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Peter Høeg is probably the most well-known contemporary Danish author. I have read De måske egnede (Borderliners) recently and really liked it and years ago, I read Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow) and didn’t like it all that much, but I did take a huge break while reading it so it’s probably my own fault that I didn’t like it. So today, I bought Smilla as well as his newest novel, Elefantpassernes børn (The Elephant Keeper’s Children). I’m looking forward to reading both these books!

I also bought Morten Ramsland’s Sumobrødre (Sumo Brothers). Ramsland’s first novel, Hundehoved (Doghead), was hugely popular some years ago and was internationally published. I haven’t read either of them but I have heard that he should write a bit like John Irving and since I love Irving, I’m very excited about this one.

But I didn’t stick to just Danish books. I also took the opportunity to get a few English books. Not a lot of English books is on sale so the selection was very limited.

battle-hymn-of-the-tiger-mother mrs-dalloway

When Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was published, it caused a huge controversy. I had no intention of reading it since I don’t want to raise my daughters with no sleepovers and only extremely limited time to play. However, I heard an interview with Chua recently – and what she said, made sense. It sounded like she had some good thoughts and ideas so I decided I wanted to give her book a try.

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway was also on sale and since I only own one book by Woolf (Orlando) and I’ve only read one (To the Lighthouse), I knew I wanted to bring this one home with me too. Especially since I liked To the Lighthouse.

So five books got to come home with me today as well as a couple of Tinkerbell books, a Winnie-the-Pooh book, a princess-ballerina book and two coloring books. So all in all a good day!

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