Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reading Challenge Book 14: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


Today a friend asked me why I chose to read this book, and it has to do with me serving in the Army. That doesn't make a lot of sense, I know, so I'll try to briefly explain why I picked this one up:

Two weeks or so ago I posted a funny thing about the military on my Facebook page. It seems some butthurt Soldiers have been complaining that they don't have combat patches, and that some Soldiers who had earned them had been asked to remove them. The humorous post was about the mother  of a patch-less Soldier (a guy fresh out of basic) complaining to someone over social media, who directed her to contact her son's battalion commander (for those of you who don't know, this is exactly what not to do). Anyway, long story short (too late!), someone commented that the mother sounded like a "tiger mother," to which I replied, "a whatnow?"

As I am currently living in Taiwan and dealing with this culture (my job exists only because tiger mothers exist), I decided to read this book. It would not only broaden my horizons, but it would also be a book by a female Chinese-American author. It's important for me to make sure I'm not just reading "old dead white guys." And hey, this was a New York Times Bestseller!

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Amy Chua

This book is a memoir in which Amy Chua describes raising her two daughters the Chinese way. She goes into great detail about what being a tiger mother is all about. Her parenting style is strict and unyielding. She accepts nothing less than the best: getting straight As isn't even good enough; her daughters must be at the top of their class, and were expected to be ahead of their classmates. Chua saw no reason to allow her daughters to do things like have sleepovers, playdates, or to be in school performances. Instead, she pushed her daughters to do their homework perfectly, to learn instruments and practice for hours every night. She made these decisions, and her rule was absolute.

There is merit in this system. Her daughters consistently achieved at a higher level unmatched by "Western" kids. The elder daughter became a piano prodigy, performed in concerts at a young age, and achieved great success academically. The younger daughter, though not as good at the piano, wowed audiences with her skill at the violin.

It's this second daughter, Lulu, that becomes the instrument of change and leads to the blending of Western and Eastern parenting styles. I don't want to give anything away, but this was an amazing read. At times I found myself nodding in agreement, knowing that I would treat my son the same way; other times I shook my head, bewildered at Chua's uber-strict parenting. I definitely recommend it.

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