Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review - Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I'm thrilled to introduce the new Book Review segment on the CherriiPOP show.

The first book I will review is 'Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother' written by Amy Chua. This book caused a lot of controversy in the US media when it was released this year. The outrage caused by this book was insanely intense that the author even received death threats.

All the media coverage got me very curious about this book - Everyone was talking about it. I wanted to read the book with an open mind and come to my own conclusion about it.

The book is a memoir about raising children in a western society, in the traditional Chinese way. A lot of the media outlets said it was a parenting guide, but it's not.

The author Amy Chua, is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Amy was raised by very strict and traditional Chinese immigrant parents. Amy wasn’t allowed to have sleepovers, boyfriends. Every day she had to study and play piano. She was brought up to achieve excellence. When Amy had her family of her own, she wanted to raise her 2 daughters the way she was raised.

Amy is incredibly honest about her parenting ways. Her candidness was surprising because it didn't necessary portray her in the best light. She talks about how she would punish her children if they didn't practice the violin or piano. Some of the punishment included no dinner, no toys. But coming from an Asian background, parents tend to exaggerate the punishment sometimes, as a scare tactic. It's the norm in Asian culture. I guess in Western culture, it was a culture shock to read about the things Amy did.

Amy makes comparisons between Chinese and Western parenting styles. She said that the Western is too relaxed. Amy said her children doesn't know what is good for them, so her wishes for them will always override their choices.

She wanted her daughters to excel in school and music. She felt that if her daughters put in their best effort, they would achieve A's. Amy demanded nothing but the best from them. Amy pushed her daughters to show them what they are capable of. An example of this is, Lulu had trouble playing this piano piece called 'The Little White Donkey'. Both hands played to different rhythms at a very fast past. Lulu felt that she just couldn't play it, it was too hard. Amy didn't let that piece defeat Lulu. So Amy forced Lulu to keep practicing and practicing for hours. Amy's husband Jed told Amy to stop pushing Lulu. Amy just knew that Lulu could do it and she continued to push. Then after hours of drilling, Lulu was playing the song. She conquered it. From then on Lulu loved playing that song. I admire that Amy didn't let Lulu give up. When Lulu conquered that challenge, she felt a huge sense of achievement.

Amy writes: "Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America."

Amy made a lot of sacrifices for her daughters. The media outlets who said negative things about Amy left this important fact out. Amy expected the best from her daughters, she also gave them her best. Amy had a successful academic career, but she always made herself available to her daughters.

As her youngest daughter Lulu got older, she started to rebel against the chinese parenting way - The 'control' that Amy had over her. Lulu wanted to make decisions for herself and she wanted to quit the violin. Amy and Lulu's relationship was suffering. Amy was afraid of losing Lulu. This is a turning point for Amy in the book. Amy let Lulu quit violin. She realised that the chinese parenting way did not suit everyone. Amy had to step back and let Lulu make her own choices.

After reading this book, it gave me a better appreciation for classical music. I never knew the work involved to become a music prodigy. Talent is one thing; in order to grow you need to develop your skills - that involves hard work.

Parenting is the toughest job in the world. I admire Amy for sharing her experiences and struggles. We can all learn from each other's experiences. As the saying goes, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover - Well in this case, don't judge the book by the media coverage. Reading excepts won't give you the full picture, the full journey. This book has to be read cover to cover. The moment I started reading it I was glued. I highly recommend this book about parenting, clash of cultures and a mother's struggle to understand her daughters.

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