When EW reviewed Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, we wrote that we thought there might be some, um, spirited debate. And it sure seems as though readers are reacting to this memoir about parenting in what Chua calls “the Chinese way”: Children must never make a grade lower than A. They may not have sleepovers or playdates, or watch TV or play computer games. They must focus exclusively on schoolwork and parent-selected extracurricular activities.
No one can claim that Chua didn’t warn us – on the very cover of the book it reads: 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.
Whether Chua really regrets any of her actions – which included threats of favorite burning stuffed animals if one of her daughter’s piano playing didn’t improve – is uncertain: after all (as she’s quick to point out in the book) both her daughters did become terrific students and musical prodigies. Meanwhile, here are a couple of our favorite passages.
After her young children presented her with handmade birthday cards:
I gave the card back to Lulu. “I don’t want this,” I said. “I want a better one – one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can’t go in there.”
“What?” said Lulu in disbelief. I saw beads of sweat start to form on Jed’s forehead.
I grabbed the card again and flipped it over. I pulled out a pen from my purse and scrawled ‘Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!’ I added a big sour face. “What if I gave you this for your birthday Lulu- would you like that? But I would never do that, Lulu. No – I get you magicians and giant slides that cost me hundreds of dollars. I get you huge ice cream cakes shaped like penguins, and I spend half my salary on stupid sticker and erase party faovrs that everyone just throws away. I work so hard to give you good birthdays! I deserve better than this. So I reject this.” I threw the card back.
After her daughter’s beloved paternal grandmother Popo died, Chua insisted the girls write a short speech to read at the funeral. Both girls refused (“No please, Mommy, don’t make,” Sophia said tearfully. “I really don’t feel like it.”). Chua insisted.
Sophia’s first draft was terrible, rambling and superficial. Lulu’s wasn’t so great either, but I held my elder daughter to a higher standard. Perhaps because I was so upset myself, I lashed out at her. “How could you, Sophia?” I said viciously. “This is awful. It has no insight. It has no depth. It’s like a Hallmark Card – which Popo hated. You are so selfish. Popo loved you so much – and you – produce–this!”
So what do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with Chua’s methods? And does all the controversy make you want to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?