Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Publisher: Penguin Press
Publishing Date: January 11th, 2011
Genre: Non-fiction, Parenting
Pages: 237 pgs
ISBN: 9781594202841
Source: Bought for book club

Rating: 3 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

My Review: 
This is our book club pick for the month of May and I was looking forward to reading this because I had heard so much about it.  It is a short book and doesn't take long to read but it is not one that I would considered well-written.  I found the actual writing in the novel to be simplistic and at times a little bit boring.  It is about a woman who has decided to raise her children in the "Chinese way" which essentially means being extremely tough on her children so that they can learn the value of hard work.  Chua believes that western parents are too permissive with their children and that this is teaching the wrong values to these children.  
I think there is something to said for this and I wouldn't disagree that some parents are a bit too permissive in their parenting.  I have a bit of a theory on this though.  I think that every parent wants to give their child more than what they had.  At a certain point giving your child more than what you had becomes impossible and it becomes excessive.  I will say that I am not a parent but hope to be in the future. Now, none of this is in the book but it is just something that I was thinking about while reading this book.  Also, while I do think there are some trends in parenting recently that I don't necessarily agree with, I also don't agree with Chua's point of view either. 
The novel starts off, almost immediately, with a story about Chua bringing her child outside in the winter with no winter coat or boots, to teach her a lesson.  While I was reading this I couldn't help but think of how wrong this is.  It seemed a little extreme to teach a small child a lesson.  
The book focuses on Chua's two children and most of the novel centers on their piano/violin lessons.  It seemed like the only thing that Chua was concerned with was having her children practice their respective instruments.  She went as far as pulling her children out of school to practice and it often happened that they would miss important family bonding time in order to practice.  Chua seemed almost obsessed with having her children be child prodigies in terms of their musical abilities.  
The whole time I was reading this novel I never felt love between a mother and daughter.  There was never a warmth or an endearing story and I found this to be a bit strange.  I also had to question the husband in this book.  Where was he and why didn't he step in to say that things were going a bit too extreme?  There is a point in this book where the chlidren give their mother a hand-made birthday card and instead of saying thank you, Chua tells them that it is not good enough and they must make her a new card.  She told them they were lazy and that she wanted a birthday card that was made with more effort.  I think my jaw dropped to the ground when I read this.  While I know Chua must love her children, I never felt that she showed her children this. 
This book also makes me wonder about the things that we are not seeing.  Were things really this bad or did she leave out fond memories to keep them private?  Or were things really a lot worse than this?  If Chua is willing to write about herself in this light are there things that she is too embarassed to put into a book?  
I struggled with rating this book.  As a said before I did find it to be a bit dry and the writing is  not all that good so I thought about giving it 2 stars.  In the end I went with 3 stars because while it was dry, it does provoke a lot of controversy and it sparks a lot of discussion.  I'm curious to know what you thought of this book if you have read it. 


  1. Wow. I've been wanting to read this book, because I'm thinking about going to teach in China or Hong Kong in the next couple of years and am curious about what I might come across when it comes to attitudes to education. The things you describe from this book are extreme - there's a difference between being strict and being cruel.

  2. This does sound like it will be a wonderful book to read.

    Thanks for sharing,
    My WoW: