Monday, May 02, 2011

Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

After all that mess in the media about The Tiger Mom Controversy, I didn't expect Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother to be fun to read but it was a lot of fun. Chua can definitely write with sarcasm and wit, and some of her antics as a mother are to be read to be believed.

Funny thing is, while I agree with her stance on discipline and learning (Western-style education, for instance, is not very good at getting good enough at basic skills so that higher level skills can build upon them), I'm the kind of person who finds classical music pretentious and silly, so I find it amusing that she would devote so much of her energy (and her daughters' energies) to classical music and then call it "traditional", given that none of her choices of instruments would ever be a traditional Chinese instrument. She even discusses her distaste for Chinese musical traditions in the book! Then, even though she only speaks Fujian (she calls it Hokkien, because she doesn't even know Mandarin, let alone pinyin), she has her daughters learn Mandarin while celebrating their Jewish heritages with Bar Mitzahs.

One particularly poignant story has her rejecting her daughters' birthday cards as not being well made enough. She definitely sent her message to her daughters on that one, but I'm not sure it reflects a lot of self-awareness as a person.

I am amazed by the amount of energy Chua has in bringing up her children. She has two daughters practicing 2-3 hours of music a day, in addition to scoring straight As. She stays on top of everything, and does an insane amount of driving and spends huge amounts of money on lessons, travel, and so on and so forth. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the energy to do so.

Irregardless, I think the book was light fun reading and very entertaining. Chua's generated a lot of controversy out of the book, and claims she was misquoted (I don't think so, by the way), but as long as you have a sense of humor and an active sarcasm detector when you read this book, you'll find it enjoyable. Recommended as light airplane reading.
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