Saturday, January 29, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Wow! What a lot of controversy this book has created. I will be up front in saying the most I have read or heard has just been little blurbs here and there, and even before hearing the criticism I had plans to read this one.

While the book is titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, three sentences follow this title:

This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs.

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.

What Chua should have added, was that this was also a book not only chronicling the Chinese way of parenting, but also couched in humor, not meant to be taken entirely seriously. And in addition to making herself out to be just a little bit crazy, it is also a book that shows Chua to be just as hard on herself as she is on her children.

So, yes Chua is a bit over the top in her parenting techniques. The excessive practicing of piano and violin forced on her daughters is, well, excessive. The many rules are also a bit too much. And, when she is asked who she is doing this for - herself or her daughters- she is almost entirely sure it is for her children. But despite all of this, I rather liked Chua. She has received much criticism for her parenting, especially for an incident where she called her daughter garbage (that has been on several newsclips I've seen).But what parent out there hasn't regretted something they've said in anger? Chua's desire for her daughters to be the best isn't really that strange, although her tactics at achieving it might be, at least in today's world. Many parents today give their children whatever they want all the while trying to be their friend. I have heard many a parent and teaching colleague bemoan this fact. Just this morning a library patron talked about his own grown daughter's attitude of entitlement. While he blames himself for this problem, realizing it was his parenting that helped create this attitude, it reinforces some of Chua's statements about Western parenting.

While Sophia, Chua's oldest daughter, willingly acquiesced to her mother's demands, Lulu, the rebellious second child fought back. She did not want to practice violin, and the two had many heated battles. Although by book's end there is peace, and Lulu and Sophie know that their mother has divulged to the world the inner workings of their feud, I am curious how the two girsl will feel about their private battles being made public - if not now, in their future.

I don't plan on using Chua's tactics with my own children. I might tell my children how good they have it - explaining how strict and disciplined their lives could be. But, I did enjoy this book, having read it with the knowledge that Chua wrote this as something humorous, not to be taken entirely seriously.

Who else has read Tiger Mother? What are your thoughts?

6 comments:

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

Bravo...I haven't read this book, but I knew there must be some balance out there to off-set the controversy. I had to believe there was "more to it" than what I was reading. makes me want to read it even more.

Shan said...

I haven't read the book yet but plan to. I think most of the controversy came from an essay that came out before the book titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." I think a few bad PR moves were made in the beginning because it seems that isn't a book about how to parent but rather reflecting on her parenting style.

I grew up in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Chinese so this sort of parenting style is in no way new to me. I watched my friends grow up with it, fight against it, and succeed through it. So I'm really interested in reading this book.

Andre M. Smith said...

Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.
________________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

Andre M. Smith said...

I checked Asian. I had heard it was harder to apply as an Asian, so as a point of pride, I had to say I was Asian. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/

In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins#Pride

1) Tiger Sophia, you may have checked Asian which does have a “tax,” however you also got big bonus points for being a legacy many times over. The upshot is that you had help getting in unlike these Asian Americans below who live at the poverty line and don’t have Ivy League parents with deep pockets.
2) By checking Asian when, actually, you are of mixed race, you have taken a spot away from those who don’t have the benefit of applying to a less competitive race slot. Thanks to you, someone who[se] life could be completely changed did not get a spot. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29

Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the daughter of a mother of mixed Asian ethnicity of no known religious involvement and a secular — whatever that means — American Jewish father has, ostensibly been raised as a Jewess in an atheistic family positing itself as . . . ? When she applied for admission to Harvard she descended into a pride of Asianness to avail herself of an ethnic quota advantage.

This duplicitous young woman is, indeed, her mother’s daughter! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=230907266920263&set=o.134679449938486&type=1&theater
__________________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

Andre M. Smith said...

There is a recurring theme without solid core that continues to recycle on the question of Amy Chua and her style as a mother. J.G. (unfortunately anonymous, as are most of the endorsements of Professor Chua) has written

I think it’s easy to take cheap shots at Chua, but it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others.

It might seem amusing to mock her (her “cushy job” and “hottie husband”), but harder to actually consider the points being made in a non-defensive way, without trying to paint yourself as the “cool mom” who prefers three martini playdates?

p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) would paint her parents as laissez-faire and herself as moderately motivated.
Posted by: J.G. | January 18, 2011 at 02:31 PM http://thecareerist.typepad.com/thecareerist/2011/01/chinese-moms.html

I, for one, have no interest whatsoever in her “cushy job” and “hottie husband.” Nor do I have any objection to her having become a millionaire from the sales of her book and that she will be well on her way to becoming a multimillionare once the planned translations of it into thirteen of the world’s languages have been completed. My uncompromising objections to Professor Chua are two-fold: her abuses of young children pursued to further her own narcissistic urgencies and her deep commitment of abuse of the art of music – of which she seemingly has no knowledge whatsoever – for reasons having nothing to do with that art. My shots at her are far from what J.G. calls “cheap shots.” They do in fact go to the heart of the problems with her that remain my chief concerns.

J.G. and most of his fellow travelers in their tepid defenses of Professor Chua continue to focus on her inherited emphasis of the sorry state of public education in The United States. What else is new?

As with most of the ringing endorsements of Amy Chua, those from J.G. are clearly from a mind not wholly engaged. He has written ” it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others. In his tangled syntax I’m quite sure he means – at least I’m hoping he means – it’s hard to argue that the average American child does not need more discipline, more direction or more respect for others.

J.G. has written further, “p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) . . . “ Again, but this time TWO thoughts from nowhere! What has Williams College to do with Amy Chua (Harvard, A.B. ’84)? And since when has Williams even been on the “fantasy” palate “of Chinese parents everywhere?”

Professor Chua usually receives the quality of defense she deserves.
____________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

Andre M. Smith said...

An integral amalgam of defining examples of narcissism that Professor Chua has instilled in her two daughters is self-advancement with sexual provocation. Her public signature posture is one of excessive toothiness, for a university professor exceedingly vulgar displays of long legs, and breast projections that might have won her Blue Ribbons as “Best in Show” as a candidate in any Sweater Queen contest during the 1940s or ‘50s. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/sweater-queen-contest She never misses an opportunity to increase the image of her breast size by folding her arms under them; in one oft-reproduced photograph she actually appears to be elevating the left one nudged up by a folded arm. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Amychua4.png

The elder Chua daughter, Sophia, has learned her lesson well. http://www.nypost.com/rw/nypost/2011/01/18/entertainment/photos_stories/sophia_chua–300×450.jpg and http://www.facebook.com/amytigermother?sk=photos#!/photo.php?fbid=230907580253565&set=o.134679449938486&type=1&theater,

Birds of a feather . . . A coop of nesting trophy wives!
_______________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.