32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
I remember once attending a school coffee morning and complaining afterwards to a friend of mine, who is from Hong Kong, how competitive some parents are. To say she was aghast is understating the case - "No," she exclaimed, "Hong Kong is much harder to bring your child up - very, very competitive!" After reading this book, I perhaps understand what she meant. Amy Chua...
Published on 22 Jun 2011 by S Riaz
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Battle Hymn (well titled!)
I started off by thinking this woman is not for real but then stepped back and just read it completely before making a judgment. She is certainly a driven woman by wanting the very best from her children and for that I give her three stars. I think there is something deeper going on here. I suppose her own up bringing was responsible. I personally feel, she was lucky...
Published 12 months ago by Simj
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,
I remember once attending a school coffee morning and complaining afterwards to a friend of mine, who is from Hong Kong, how competitive some parents are. To say she was aghast is understating the case - "No," she exclaimed, "Hong Kong is much harder to bring your child up - very, very competitive!" After reading this book, I perhaps understand what she meant. Amy Chua brought her two daughters up, in the US, but on the Chinese parenting model. This book does explain why, and how, there are so many academically brilliant Chinese students; not to mention so many gifted musicians, chess champions, etc. However, it also explains the cost of putting this intense programme into action - no playdates, sleepovers, and an over scheduling which sounded exhausting for her, let alone a child.
Amy Chua obviously has a great belief in her parenting methods and she is, at times, quite shockingly aggressive about 'Western' methods. However, she herself admits that she prefers to learn things by rote and found a career in Law uncomfortable by her unwillingness to 'question', which perhaps meant the model worked for her and so she approved of it whole heartedly for her own children. This, however, I believe is the true shortcoming in her approach - yes, children do need to learn some things by rote, but to be real learners for life, you need to inspire and create a love of learning and a willingness to try things without fear of failure. All you can do, ultimately, for children is to open doors - let them experience different activities and choose which of those they enjoy. To battle with your children over music practice day after day must surely be draining for everyone in the house and, you do wonder at the cost of success. To go on holiday and spend hours searching for a piano at every location just introduces stress into what should be an enjoyable time and, although you can applaud the effort, you wonder how much is for the sake of the child and how much for the parental ambition. Quite a lot I felt was for the mother and not the children. Interestingly, Amy's husband was not Chinese, but an American academic and well known author. Although he disagreed with many of Amy's methods, she did most of the parenting (like the majority of mothers) and so, ultimately, it was her ideas which were implemented. The cost seems to have been a high one in family financial cost, time and stress, with her children becoming her 'projects'.
Although I disagreed with much of what she said, I did find myself agreeing with some of her ideas; although perhaps in a less aggressive way. As a book I found it fascinating. You have to look past the desire to shock and be confrontational and read the message. Although I could never parent like she does, nor would I wish to, in one sense she is right - children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Parental input is certainly important for our children to succeed, but the task is to get the balance right and include our children in the process. It is, after all, their life. However, as a book - jaw dropping as it is, it does make fascinating reading.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down,
This review is from: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Paperback)
I finished reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in just over an hour. It was a very entertaining read and I do feel that Amy has been gravely misunderstood, from some of the reviews of this book (not on Amazon but other publications). First and foremost, as a woman of South East Asian chinese descent I will say that it takes a lot of guts for Amy to write about her rise and fall in her super quest for her children to be nothing but the best. She also comes across in her book as someone who is completely self aware of the situation- making a parody of herself if you will- and finally realising that her discipline heavy approach did not quite cut the mustard with Lulu. Unorthodox and cruel as certain quarters may feel her methods are, I think one message is clear- she never told her daughters that "you can never do this, you are not good enough". Her berating and temper only flares up when they were not trying hard enough.
There is nothing worse than raising a child to be an adult with low self esteem and self doubt. Too often, parents give up easily when their children throw tantrums and then these children later on grow up wishing they had put more effort into what they had been doing ("should have practised more piano, should have done this, should have tried harder etc"). The mental and physical challenges required of any individual working on something full time, be it sports, music, arts, etc, resembles a marathon, your legs are killing you but you want to get to the finishing line because you have come this far and there really is no turning back.
As with any other book I think a balanced approach must be adopted. Amy learnt her lesson through her experience with Lulu, and parents who are letting their children down by indulging in their every vice, or indeed, not helping them realise their full potential could perhaps take a couple of pointers from this book.
Overall a great read. Every single emotion in the book is very very real. Thank you Amy for sharing your world with the rest of us.
62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and aggressive memoir,
There can't be many people who would agree with every word on child-rearing here. Nor will there be many who think nothing here makes sense. The book is compelling reading, good to think with, and fun to hurl away with great force. I know I did this. I also know I picked it up again. I wanted to know what happened next.
I can understand her frustration with liberal parenting, and with the dumbing down endemic in the Anglophone world. (I looked at the OCR GCSE English marking criteria today; these contain two uses of a plural verb with a singular noun.) Chua implies - rightly - that these declining standards are less likely to be disadvantageous to the children of the Goldman Sachs bankers than to the children of struggling immigrants.
And yet most readers of this book will also have found themselves gasping in horror at some point: I know I did. For me, Chua's educational methods are more bearable than her character-training efforts. I agree with her that nothing is fun until you do it properly, and there is evidence that constant praise and no challenges does not make for happiness. It is also plain that few children will do enough music practice - or enough grammar or times tables - unless pressured, though conversely we could consider the long-term cost of installing perfectionism and restless dissatisfaction in every child. WE as readers could consider such things; Chua doesn't.
But the extent to which - in Chua's eyes - birthday cards and funeral eulogies also become tasks to be done 'properly' by children is chilling. Conditional love is one thing, but nobody can be perfect in every respect. Is Chua quite perfect enough herself to set standards like this for the entire world? Is it quite enough to be a soloist, or a law professor, or a novelist? Is anybody quite perfect enough? Can anything ever give back to Chua or her children the sound sweet sleep provided by knowing that ordinary is sometimes enough, that the family is a haven in a heartless world? I wonder - no, I worry - about what will happen to Chua's daughters Sophia and Lulu if they don't get into an Ivy League school, if they don't maintain a perfect GPA when they get there. Chua may forgive them, but will they be able to forgive themselves? What if they don't make it as soloists, or athletes? Parents have to arm children against failure as well as prepping them for success; by Chua's standards, most people are failures.
I pin my hopes to the dogs; one of the most engaging strands of the book is dedicated to them. Chua knows they have been a comfort because they are untrained, but still beautiful. Perhaps Sophia and Lulu will learn this lesson too.
Chua is a fine writer and she makes you argue with her, fight her, and also sympathise with her and with her daughters as she clashes with both of them. I think 'thought-provoking' is definitely the mot juste for this book. Read it and weep, yes, but smile too, and hope.
One minus; it isn't very long, and most of the striking stories have been well aired in the press.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Battle Hymn (well titled!),
I started off by thinking this woman is not for real but then stepped back and just read it completely before making a judgment. She is certainly a driven woman by wanting the very best from her children and for that I give her three stars. I think there is something deeper going on here. I suppose her own up bringing was responsible. I personally feel, she was lucky in her children and husband! Not an easy book to read, was she just trying to put down on paper her actions to sort them out for herself, I just don't know, a perhaps a kind of therepy?
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The writer shows a sense of humour. Recommended for readers who do likewise.,
There are some great moments of humour in this book. Taken literally the author perceives herself a voice of reason in a world of parenting gone mad; a world where children are seen, heard and allowed to fritter away their childhood on having fun.
Her children are subjected to a regime of discipline and learning by rote designed to set them up for academic and musical success. And it works, up to a point.
The book's dynamic comes from the author/mother's division of approaches into Western (lax, pandering, liberal, not fulfilling the potential of the child) and Chinese (authoritarian and relentless in the pursuit of academic and musical success). Her approach is Chinese and her home is in the US, leading to friction with her children, husband, friends and colleagues.
Take it as a parenting manual and its likely to raise annoyance. Take it as the memoir of a woman who has correctly identified that she has adopted an approach many "Westerners" will find extreme, who tells her story succintly and well and who, between the lines, has an engaging take on self-deprecation and bathos and you'll probably like it.
My favourite quote from the book is...
"The summer after Florence's passing was a difficult one. To begin with, I ran over Sophia's foot.
"She jumped out of my car to grab a tennis racket while I was still backing up, and her left ankle got caught in the front wheel. Sophia and I both fainted. She ended up having surgery under full anasthesia and two big screws put in.
"Then she had to wear a huge boot and use crutches for the rest of the summer, which put her in a bad mood but at least gave her a lot of time to practice the piano."
If that raises a smile, you're probably on to a winner.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's alright, but lacks integrity and frustrating,
I personally found Amy Chua's sino-centric view more disturbing than her parenting method. She admits that the terms "Chinese Mother" and "Western Mother" to depict stereotypically stricter versus more liberal parents. The former may include "some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too" (p. 4) whereas "mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West" would be classified as a Western Mother (p. 4). Why couldn't she have just said "Stricter Mother" and "Not-As-Strict Mother", or something along that line, whenever it could refer anyone with such trait? Also, I found one of her descriptions particularly upsetting, where she says "He [the boy who initially beats Sophia in a class test, but becomes a runner-up later after Chua rote drills her daughter] went back to Korea with his family, but probably not because of the test" (p. 70). I understand that some readers may criticise my viewpoint by saying that it is only an humour, but anyway, did she really have to include it?
Other than that, the book started off alright, and I initially took Amy Chua as an overly passionate, career-driven and ambitious mother, who spits out some fiery words out of anger (rather than actually meaning them). However, I began to get annoyed at the fact that she fails to disclose disadvantages of East Asian rote drilling parenting method in full, as she has mentioned in Western counterpart (although she does say that Chinese parenting does not guarantee happiness). One of the major advantages and disadvantages of rote drilling versus Western parenting methods is that rote drilling does help to create a well-rounded individual, but may make him/her difficult to think outside the box. This was clearly seen from her and her husband's, who grew up in more liberal Jewish household, experiences. She did admit that:
"I froze whenever a professor called on me. I also wasn't naturally sceptical and questioning; I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it" (p.31)
I also found it hypocritical that herself was not always happy that she has chosen her pathways in accordance to her parents' wishes, and had made some revisions to rectify her mistakes:
"I started off as an applied mathematics major at Harvard because I thought it would please my parents; I dropped it after my father, watching me struggling with a problem set... But then I mechanically switched to economics because it seemed vaguely sciencelike... I went to law school mainly because I didn't want to go to medical school... But I was always worried that law really wasn't my calling" (p. 31).
Yet she did exactly the same to her daughters, despite her own personal struggles and some lessons learnt from it, if that is what she had actually done as she has depicted in the book.
Overall, I found the book rather confusing and evasive. It primarily talks about how Chua has helped her kids to be successful and what they have and will achieve than what they have lost in comparison to others. I don't feel the author was being honest because I felt that the author was beautifying her daughters by only revealing their good points as they don't do anything bad throughout the book other than ignoring their mother's instruction to practice instruments and study (Lulu does talk back to her Korean violin tutor at one point, but that is more to do with rebellion against Chua rather than against the violin tutor, according to the book). I don't think it could be possible in real life. All (auto)biographies may contain some exaggerated events in order to make the book more sellable, which is acceptable, but considering there are always greater trade-offs than the incidents mentioned in the book, I don't think it has helped to make the author's approaches convincing to the readers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's all about Amy - not her children,
I am ambivalent about this book and about the author and I am not sure of the purpose of the book. I think I don't like Amy. She is a strange contradiction of a person - driven, bullying even - but I can't blame her for wanting to aim for the stars - I don't believe in putting up with mediocrity. It's the methods she uses that I have the problem with. This is the first book I have read that I have found difficult to review because I am not sure what it is about or why she wrote it. I realise it's not a parenting manual (thank goodness!) but if it is a memoir, then why? What is the point of it? To brag and show off, because that is how I see it. Is it tongue in cheek, or is the laugh on the reader? I didn't find it particularly funny or amusing to read about poor Sophia being referred to as garbage and the birthday card incidents were unforgiveable. Amy talks about how she is doing everything for her children, but why? She sees them as extensions of herself "you are an embarrassment to me" - why does she need to show off so much, to have the most accomplished children on the block? Perhaps because she has a need to be the best herself and everything in her life - husband, children, dogs - are a reflection of and extension of herself and she will not tolerate failure as it feels to me she had these children to bask in reflected glory.
There are some good things. Not having children myself I thought it would be hard to relate to this book but having worked with the results of laissez-faire or largely absent parenting for a number of years (or parents who just can't be bothered or behave like children themselves), I do agree somewhat with Allison Pearson's review on the back cover in that much of what passes for parenting today is worse than AC's view. I think she is to be admired for wanting the best for her children, but she doesn't seem to allow them to be individuals, she wants what SHE wants for them. Me, me, me. Sophia being invited to play in the hotel by the manager and her opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall was a fabulous experience however and I enjoyed reading about that, but only because Sophia seemed to take genuine delight in it for herself and not just to please her mother.
An observation - where on earth, with the sort of job she holds down, did she find the time for all this investment in the children? Who did the shopping, housework, cooking and so on? She must have an army of domestic staff to cope with the pressure, and this does not endear herself to me as a reader with a normal life.
Whilst easy to read, this is the sort of book that generates heated discussion for and against, I think. To me, she is a privileged, annoying, smug show-off. Sorry Amy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all parents!,
Great book from start to finish. Funny, yet sad. Really felt for her daughters and husband. Gave me an insight that no mother is perfect- no matter how hard you try. I really enjoyable quick read.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Children are tougher than we give them credit for!,
I enjoyed this book. I am Chinese now living in the UK and I admit I was outraged when I first read the WSJ excerpt of her book. My first thoughts were I can't believe anyone would do something like that to their children. However as I thought more about it and I guess living out here in the UK I've been so used to the numbing and dumbing of our children's perceived fragile self esteem and always making sure that their feelings and wants are always met for fear of damaging them emotionally, I forgot that hey, I was brought up pretty much the same way. I practiced the piano for an hour (okay not daily and not 2 hours a day but 5 times a week, pretty much didn't watch tellie apart from the news, don't remember a sleep over (although cousins stayed with us during holidays for a night)....and you know what, I'm none the worse for it.
I now have 2 girls and within my circle of friends, I've found out very quickly that expressing my hopes and dreams for them is the quickest way to get ostracised from modern society simply because it is MY hope and MY dream and no one has asked them (my eldest is age 3) if they wanted it in the first place. My friend was horrified when she found out I had been drilling the alphabets and numbers to my pre-schooler after coming back from school or that I meant for my girls to continue ballet and start piano lessons at age 4 with a view to taking exams. I would rather my daughters grumble to their boyfriend/husbands/friends that "mum was a nuthead and made me do ballet and piano" rather than "i wish mum made me do such and such"! Parenting is such a personal issue so I applaud Amy Chua for baring her closet.
I give this 4 stars because it was the single most honest piece of memoir I've read. It would've been 5 stars if Amy Chua did a step by step breakdown of how she made her daughters practice for 2 hours a day and how she got her energy to parent the way she did!
Lastly, Amy Chua ought to thank WSJ for creating such a storm with that excerpt. It generated more publicity that she could even dream of!
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely readable,
Very funny book. The author is a tough mother, no doubt about it, but she does have insight into her terrifying approach and acknowledges how hard it is for her daughters. Lots of limp parents will criticise this, furiously defending their own directionless, TV watching offspring. I'm not saying I would raise my own daughter exactly as Amy has done...maybe dilute it a bit. The most intersting thing would be to hear from Sophia or Lulu when they are a little older and can tell us what sort of adults they turned out to be and whether it was all worth it.
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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (Paperback - 2 Feb 2012)