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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua

2011/05/19

This book sparked much controversy following its publication, with parents accusing Chua of abuse, hailing her as a voice of reason, and everything in between. With so many conflicting messages and opinions about parenting in modern America, Chua describes an unwavering dedication to traditional Chinese parenting; however, her preface notes, “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”

To ease readers’ minds about stereotypes, Chua opens by defining her terms (“Western parents” and “Chinese mother”), while making the disclaimer that not all who are born into a culture or society automatically accept it. To continue, she describes her own marriage to a Jewish-American man, and the decisions they made to attempt a balance of these cultures in their children. Chua describes her family and their path to America, recounting episodes with her own parents, and commenting on the loss of culture and ethnic identity as generations pass. The bulk of the book relates Chua’s parenting of her two daughters, describing episodes where she is thrilled at the success of Chinese techniques, and others where she bemoans her failures.

As a third/fourth generation ABC, there is not much left of the tiger in either of my parents. I can see feeble attempts at it in my only remaining grandparent, and see the legacy of it left from my other grandparents. Still, being raised amid the remnants of this culture, some of Chua’s stories and observations struck close to home, such as the ones about doing physical labor, the sense of entitlement that grows as generations pass, and the difference between Western and Chinese assumptions about parenting. As I read, I found myself agreeing with most of Chua’s arguments, even the ones that I know are counterculture for most Americans, and being a little sad when I realize how many of these core beliefs and practices are threatened by mainstream culture.

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